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censorship system

Film classification


Under the Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act 1993, a film is defined as a cinema film, video recording, computer game or any other medium with moving images.

All films in New Zealand must be rated or classified, and labelled, before they are released to the public (except those exempted under section 8 of the Act). Ratings and classifications provide consumer information on the audience suitability of films.

 

Publications other than films


Publications other than films do not have to be labelled before release to the public, but suppliers are responsible for ensuring that all material is supplied to the public appropriately.

Publications that may be restricted or objectionable can be submitted directly to the Classification Office by:

  • suppliers and distributors
  • the Censorship Compliance Unit of the Department of Internal Affairs
  • New Zealand Customs
  • the Police and members of the public (the permission of the Chief Censor is required).

The Office will assess publications, using the same criteria as for films. The Office can:

  • ban or restrict publications
  • impose display conditions on restricted publications
  • assign an unrestricted classification.

Anyone who disagrees with a decision made by the Office can apply to have a publication reviewed under section 47 of the Act by the Film and Literature Board of Review, in the same way as films.

The Act establishes a three-tier system for rating and classifying films:

1. The Film and Video Labelling Body


All films supplied to the public must be submitted to the Labelling Body.

The Labelling Body:

  • rates unrestricted films
  • cross-rates unrestricted films that have been rated in Australia or the UK
  • issues the labels that must be affixed to films before they can be supplied to the public.

Labels can only be affixed to films once they have been rated or classified.

How the Labelling Body rates films

The Labelling Body can rate a film and issue a label if:

The film has been previously rated or classified in New Zealand prior to the creation of the Office. If so, the Labelling Body can assign an equivalent label under the current Act.

The film has been given an unrestricted rating by the Australian Classification Board or UK BBFC. On viewing the film, the Labelling Body assesses the content as unrestricted.

The Labelling Body will submit a film to the Classification Office if:

  • the film has been classified as restricted in Australia or the UK
  • the film has been refused approval for supply and exhibition in Australia or the UK
  • the film is likely to be classified as restricted or objectionable by the Office
  • the Labelling Body is having difficulty deciding the appropriate rating for the film.

The Labelling Body acts as the agent for distributors when films are submitted to the Office. Questions about films in the process of being classified should be addressed to the Labelling Body rather than the Office.

This FLOWCHART illustrates the process that the Labelling Body must follow.

Section 12 submission flowchart

2. The Office of Film and Literature Classification

The Office is responsible for classifying all films submitted to it.

Films can be submitted to the Office by:

  • the Film and Video Labelling Body
  • the Censorship Compliance Unit of the Department of Internal Affairs
  • New Zealand Customs
  • the Police or members of the public (the permission of the Chief Censor is required).

The Office can ban or restrict the availability of a film, impose display conditions on a restricted publication, or assign it an unrestricted classification. Restrictions imposed by the Office are legally enforceable.

3. Film and Literature Board of Review


Anyone who disagrees with a decision made by the Office can apply to have a film reviewed under section 47 of the Act by the Film and Literature Board of Review.

Anyone other than enforcement officials or owners of a publication must obtain leave of the Secretary of Internal Affairs before they can apply to the Board. They may also apply for an interim restriction order, to prevent the publication being made available until the classification is finalised.

The Board of Review is an independent body administered by the Department of Internal Affairs. It reviews the film rather than the original decision, and makes an entirely new decision based on its own viewing of the film.

When reviewing a film, the Board will apply the same criteria that the Office uses when making a decision.

More information about the Board of Review can be found on the website of the Department of Internal Affairs.

 

 

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