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Censor for a Day

Posted on 19 June 2014 by Michelle

We often get inquiries from students about working at the Classification Office. They want to know what qualifications they need and what the job entails. Many are passionate about media, and about censorship, perhaps not surprising seeing as teens are arguably the group most affected in New Zealand by the classification system. They, like many other New Zealanders, often are uncertain about how classifications for films and games are determined, and what the basis is for sometimes not allowing them to see content they'd like to.

This is one of the main reasons the Classification Office runs an event for senior Media Studies students twice a year. Censor for a Day has been running since 2000 in different centres around the country. Students are given a walk through the legislated criteria used by the Classification Office to classify films, games, books and other publications. They are then shown a pre-release film (one that hasn't yet opened in New Zealand), and are asked to apply the legal criteria to determine the classification they think is the best fit for that particular film. We end the day with a group discussion about the students' experience of classifying the film.

We usually try to choose a film that will have some appeal to the students, but we also need one that covers things such as sex, horror, crime, cruelty, violence or offensive language - it'd be a very short discussion if we showed a PG film! It often comes down to what's available, and we've been very lucky in the films that have been generously donated by various film distributors. You can see what films we've used over the years in the Censor for a Day archive on our student website.

Being asked to apply legal criteria to classify a film, and to put aside your own values or beliefs, can be a big ask for people sometimes. However, the calibre of responses from students generally reflects a careful, analytic process - they show understanding that the purpose of the classification system is to protect people in our society, particularly young people, from harmful content in films and other publications. They show that they value the freedom of expression provided to them by the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act, but they are also protective of their younger siblings, cousins and friends and are concerned about them being exposed to content in films and games which they are perhaps not mature enough to cope with.

We hope that by running Censor for a Day students gain information that is not only useful to their school studies, but also to their everyday movie-watching lives. In turn, these events are a valuable opportunity for Classification Office staff to gain insight into what young New Zealanders think about both the classification system and the content they're seeing in the films they're watching and the games they're playing. It is important that we are aware of these things in order to ensure that the classification system is meeting the needs of young New Zealanders.

Our current schedule has us visiting locations every second year. You can find out where out next events will be held, and also find more information about the event itself (including reports on how students have classified films at Censor for a Day) in the Resources section of our student website.

Michelle works in the Information Unit at the NZ Office of Film and Literature Classification. Her views do not represent those of the Chief Censor or of the Classification Office. The Information Unit provides information to other staff, to the public, and to industry members - they are not involved in assigning classifications. Keep up with our blog posts by following us on Facebook and Twitter.

Censor for a Day participants

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