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Research by the Classification Office

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This page contains abstracts and electronic copies of research published by the Classification Office since 2001.

The Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act 1993 requires the Classification Office to undertake research in order to enable it to perform its functions effectively. It is important for the Classification Office to be informed about both academic arguments and public opinions on various aspects of censorship and media. Each year the Classification Office conducts research into areas relevant to our work.

Research reports since 2001


Comparing Classifications: feature films and video games 2012 & 2013 (October 2014)

Cover of research report

This analysis compares the classifications assigned to films and games by different countries. Classifications around the world can be substantially variable as are the symbols, names and meanings used on classification labels. It is interesting to find out what is similar and what is different between New Zealand's classification system and those of other countries. (Also see Comparing Classifications 2010 & 2011 below.)

Download the full report: Comparing Classifications: feature films and video games 2012 & 2013 2.14mb

Young Peoples Research (November 2013)

Young New Zealanders are one of the groups most affected by the decisions of the Classification Office. This set of research reports explores this group's perceptions of the harm that can come from the content in films and games, and the systems set up to regulate and restrict access to this content.

The research is divided into three components.

Young People's Perceptions of Media Content: A Literature Review

Image of report cover  for the Literature Review

The literature review draws together findings from New Zealand and overseas to investigate what young people perceive the effects of media to be, what they think about content regulation, and what type of content concerns them. The literature review is unique in its focus on young people’s views. The findings of the studies included in the review in many instances reflect those of the Classification Office's own research, of which this review is a component.

Download the full report: Young People's Perceptions of Media Content: A Literature Review 1,132kb

Survey of Young People's Perceptions of the Classification System

Image of report cover for the Online Survey Results

The survey presents the results of an online survey of 507 New Zealanders aged 16 to 18, in which respondents were asked about their perceptions and use of the classification system for films and games. The survey findings indicate that young New Zealanders are accepting of the idea of having restrictions on certain films and games, both for themselves and for those younger than them.

Download the full report: Survey of Young People's Perceptions of the Classification System 1,472kb

Young People's Perceptions of the Classification System and Potential Harms from Media Content: Discussion Group Findings

Image of report cover for Discussion Group Findings

In discussion groups, young people also told us that although they feel they are on the whole mature enough to handle most types of content, they want to be able to make informed choices about films and games in order to view or avoid certain content. Young people also mentioned being disturbed by content they had seen prior to being old enough to handle it and expressed a desire for some kind of warning about content in films both for themselves and for those younger than them.

Download the full report: Young People's Perceptions of the Classification System and Potential Harms from Media Content: Discussion Group Findings 1,240kb

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Image of report cover for the research Comparing Classifications 2010 & 2011

Comparing classifications 2010 & 2011 (May 2013)

The classifications assigned to films and games by different countries are substantially variable as are the symbols, names and meanings used on classification labels. Nevertheless, it is interesting to compare New Zealand classifications with those of other jurisdictions, to find out what is similar and what is different between us.

Download the full report: Comparing classifications 2010 & 2011 2,923kb

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Image of report cover for the research Attitudes towards classification labels

Attitudes towards classification labels (February 2013)

UMR Research included questions in an online omnibus in January 2013 to help us understand public attitudes to classification labels and whether people are guided by them when making viewing and gaming choices for themselves and younger people in their care.

Download the full report: Attitudes towards classification labels 584kb

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Image of report cover for the research What people think about film classification systems

What people think about film classification systems (November 2012)

The purpose of this literature review was to compare New Zealander's views of classification and rating labelling systems with overseas respondents' views from research published in the past 10 years (2002-2012). Published research was collected primarily from agencies in Britain, Ireland, the United States, and Australia.

Download the full report: What people think about film classification systems (2002-2012) 1,181kb

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Image of report cover for the research Guidance and Protection

Guidance and Protection: What New Zealanders want from the classification system for films and games (July 2011)

This qualitative study presents the views of 23 participants who told us their thoughts on the current classification system, how they use it in making decisions about films and games for themselves and young people, and what their ideal classification system would look like. The study expands qualitatively on the findings of a major survey: Understanding the Classification System — New Zealanders’ Views, published in June 2011

Download the full report: Guidance and Protection: What New Zealanders want from the classification system for films and games 660kb

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Image of report cover for the research Understanding the Classification System: New Zealanders' Views

Understanding the Classification System: New Zealanders' Views (June 2011)

More than ever before, New Zealanders love watching films, playing games, and making use of the growing variety of other forms of entertainment media. This report updates previous research, Public Understanding of Censorship, published in 2007. Aspects of the research may be of particular interest to, among others: parents of children and young people, members of the entertainment industry, government departments and media students. This new research shows that the public remain supportive of the classification system, and value the services provided by the Classification Office.

Download the full report: Understanding the Classification System: New Zealanders Views 679kb

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Image of report cover for the research Young People's Use of Entertainment Mediums 2010

Young People's Use of Entertainment Mediums 2010 (August 2010)

In 2006, the Classification Office undertook research to gain a snapshot of how young people in New Zealand were using the entertainment mediums they had access to. We updated this research in 2010 to take account of new technology and its impact on young people. Young people told us they are watching DVDs and playing games more often, use their mobile phones primarily for texting, and are most influenced by recommendations from their friends and family when deciding what to watch or play.

Download the full report: Young People's Use of Entertainment Mediums 2010 820kb

Download the original 2006 report: Young People's Use of Entertainment Mediums 2.05mb

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Image of report cover for the research Parents and Gaming Literacy

Parents and Gaming Literacy (August 2010)

The Office of Film and Literature Classification commissioned University of Waikato researcher Dr Gareth Schott to investigate the degree of parents' gaming literacy, and any connections between this literacy and their perceptions of violence in games. The research also looked at their perceptions of the effectiveness of the classification system for games. A key finding of this research is the importance of providing parents with information in order to increase their awareness and understanding of the games their children are playing, by helping them to learn about games as well as about the classification process.

Download the full report: Parents and Gaming Literacy 556kb

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Image of the cover of the report on our Public Consultation about The Last House of the Left

Report of a Public Consultation about The Last House on the Left (October 2009)

Under Section 21 of the Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act 1993, the Classification Office may show a publication to any person whom the Office considers may be able to assist it in forming an opinion on which to base a classification decision in respect of that publication. This report details the findings of a public consultation on the 2009 film The Last House on the Left.

Download the: Report of a Public Consultation about The Last House on the Left 317kb

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Image of report cover for our Review of Research on Sexual Violence in Audio-Visual Media

A Review of Research on Sexual Violence in Audio-Visual Media (August 2009)

The Classification Office commissioned researchers from Victoria University to conduct a literature review focusing on research conducted in the 1990s or later. The review grouped together studies that used similar methods, commenting on methodological strengths and weaknesses as well as reporting on the findings. The aim of this review was to draw out common themes and to highlight trends and gaps in the literature.

Download the full report: A Review of Research on Sexual Violence in Audio-Visual Media 704kb

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Image of report cover for the research Public Perceptions of a Violent Video Game X-Men Origins: Wolverine

Public Perceptions of a Violent Video Game X-Men Origins: Wolverine (August 2009)

The Classification Office commissioned market research company UMR to recruit 24 members of the public aged 18 and over to participate in two focus groups. These groups explored game-player and non-game-player levels of comfort with violence in games, and perceptions of the classification system in relation to games. The research probed participants' feelings about young people having access to violent games. Participants viewed two short clips of pre-recorded game play, and used the Perception Analyser to record their levels of comfort with what they were seeing and hearing. This exercise was followed by a focus group discussion led by Bill Hastings, the then Chief Censor. The findings of the discussions are summarised in a written report and complemented by a separate report from UMR setting out the results of the Perception Analyser exercise.

Download the full report: Public Perceptions of a Violent Video Game X-Men Origins: Wolverine 488kb

Download a PDF of the UMR Perception Analyser results 3.11mb

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Image of report cover for the research Viewing Violence: Audience Perceptions of Violent Content in Audio-Visual Entertainment

Viewing Violence: Audience Perceptions of Violent Content in Audio-Visual Entertainment (November 2008)

This is a joint research project by the Broadcasting Standards Authority and the Office of Film and Literature Classification. Both these media regulatory organisations share an interest in public attitudes toward violent content in audio-visual entertainment. In this research, carried out by Colmar Brunton, focus groups, individual interviews and online bulletin boards were used with New Zealand adults and teenagers to explore their tolerance for and levels of comfort/discomfort with depictions of violence in audio-visual entertainment. Participants viewed short clips which depicted different types of violence in a variety of contexts. This research adds to the knowledge gained over the years, updating the Authority and the Office with a range of New Zealander's viewpoints about their choices and expectations of violent content in audio-visual entertainment.

Download the full report: Viewing Violence: Audience Perceptions of Violent Content in Audio-Visual Entertainment 1.79mb

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Image of report cover for the research Public Perceptions of Highly Offensive Language

Public Perceptions of Highly Offensive Language (November 2007)

In 2005 the Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act 1993 was amended to empower the Office of Film and Literature Classification to restrict, but not ban, material containing 'highly offensive language'. Highly offensive language is defined in the Act as language that is 'highly offensive to the public in general'. The Office and UMR Research conducted this research to better understand public views of what constitutes highly offensive language, the factors that influence those views and the possible harm done by offensive language. Eight discussion groups were held in Auckland in April 2007, where participants were shown eight short film clips, selected by the Office, and asked for their views on the offensive language in each clip.

Download the full report: Public Perceptions of Highly Offensive Language 3.37mb

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Image of report cover for the research Public Understanding of Censorship

Public Understanding of Censorship (June 2007)

The New Zealand censorship system's primary objective is to prevent injury to the 'public good'. Therefore it is important to ascertain the degree to which the public understand the classification system and have confidence in it. This was the objective of research undertaken by the Office of Film and Literature Classification and UMR Research. An internet survey of 2611 New Zealanders aged 18 years or older was conducted in May 2006. Participants were asked what they knew about the Office and its functions, the classification labels and what they mean and the extent to which they used these classifications when making entertainment choices for themselves and their children. They were also asked whether they thought the classification system was too strict, too liberal, or just right.

Download the full report: Public Understanding of Censorship (2007) 1.33mb

Download our updated research: Understanding the Classification System: New Zealanders Views (2011) 679kb

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Image of report cover for the research Young People's Use of Entertainment Mediums

Young People's Use of Entertainment Mediums (November 2006)

The Classification Office and UMR Research investigated the use of entertainment mediums by persons aged 16-18 years. The 460 respondents to the survey had attended the Office's Censor for a Day 2006 events in Wellington, Christchurch, Nelson and Invercargill. They were asked about the most recent film, computer game and DVD or video they had viewed and whether it had influenced their thoughts or behaviour. The survey also asked what factors influenced their choice of film, computer game, DVD or video. It also looked at how young people use their mobile phones. This research was repeated in August 2010.

Download the full report: Young People's Use of Entertainment Mediums (2006) 2.05mb

Download the updated research: Young People's Use of Entertainment Mediums 2010 820kb

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Image of report cover for the research The Viewing Habits of Users of Sexually Explicit Movies: a Hawke's Bay sample

The Viewing Habits of Users of Sexually Explicit Movies: a Hawke's Bay sample (December 2005)

In this study, the Office of Film and Literature Classification and the Crime and Justice Research Centre of Victoria University of Wellington examined the viewing habits of users of sexually explicit material in Hawke's Bay. This built upon the findings of the previous Wellington based study Viewing Habits of Users of Sexually Explicit Movies July 2004. However, the Hawke's Bay respondents provided a different rural and urban demographic than the 2004 Wellington study. Respondents were asked how, why and when they viewed sexually explicit movies and what effect they thought that they had on them. They were also asked questions about the stigma attached to viewing these movies. The findings were based on interviews with 65 people.

Download the full report: The Viewing Habits of Users of Sexually Explicit Movies: a Hawke's Bay sample 2.06mb

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Image of report cover for our Underage Gaming Research

Underage Gaming Research (September 2005)

The Office of Film and Literature Classification and the Censorship Compliance Unit of the Department of Internal Affairs asked UMR Research to survey the game playing habits of 15-17 year olds. The respondents were 331 students attending the Office's 2005 Censor for a Day events in Wellington, Napier and New Plymouth. Students were asked whether or not they had played any of the R18 or banned games, how they accessed them and whether their parents or guardians were aware of the games they played. They were also asked about their understanding of the labelling system, in particular the labelling of games that are not legally allowed to be supplied to them.

Download the full report: Underage Gaming Research 321kb

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Image of report cover for the research The Viewing Habits of Users of Sexually Explicit Movies

The Viewing Habits of Users of Sexually Explicit Movies (July 2004)

This research examined the viewing habits of users of sexually explicit material in response to an absence of research on the effects of sexually explicit movies on users identified in A Guide to the Research into the Effects of Sexually Explicit Films and Videos (June 2003). The research was undertaken by the Office of Film and Literature Classification and the Crime and Justice Research Centre of Victoria University of Wellington. Forty-five Wellington-based participants answered questions about how they use sexually explicit movies and how they thought they were affected by them. They were also asked about the stigma attached to viewing this material.

Download the full report: The Viewing Habits of Users of Sexually Explicit Movies 320kb

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Image of report cover for the research A Guide to the Research into the Effects of Sexually Explicit Films and Videos

A Guide to the Research into the Effects of Sexually Explicit Films and Videos (June 2003)

The Office of Film and Literature Classification and Helena Barwick looked at existing research on the effects of non-violent sexually explicit material. The research guide examines different perspectives to sexually explicit material. It also looks at methodological issues raised by research design, meta-analyses of experimental research and non-laboratory research designs. The guide then surveys findings from research on:

Download the full report: A Guide to the Research into the Effects of Sexually Explicit Films and Videos 356kb

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Image of report cover for our Public opinion research on sexually explicit videos

Public opinion research on sexually explicit videos (June 2002)

The Office of Film and Literature Classification with Helena Barwick again consulted with members of the public on their attitudes to sexually explicit material. Members of the public were asked to interpret the phrase degrading, dehumanising and demeaning as found in the Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act 1993 and think how this applied to sexually explicit material.

While this research revisited ground covered in earlier research, in this project each consultation group was shown the same clips of sexually explicit material. The research findings compare different responses to particular clips and, for example, look at which clips the audience had a more positive response to.

Download the full report: Public opinion research on sexually explicit videos 1.6mb

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Image of the cover of our report Public consultation on sexually explicit videos

Public consultation on sexually explicit videos (June 2001)

The Office of Film and Literature Classification and researcher Helena Barwick consulted with a cross-section of members of the public on their attitudes to sexually explicit material. In particular, the research looked at:

152 people attended one of the six gender segregated screenings. A separate male and female group viewed one of the three clips of sexually explicit material. The research findings are based on the results of the written questionnaire and the following discussion between the Office representatives and attendees.

Download the full report: Public consultation on sexually explicit videos 855kb

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