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Films, games and other publications can be classified

This page explains the definition of a 'publication' in the Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act 1993. Under the Act, the Classification Office can classify any publication, and enforcement agencies can seize any publication which may be in breach of the law.

Films, games and books arranged on shelves

The definition of a 'publication'

The definition of a 'publication' in the Classification Act includes:

  • Films, video cassettes, DVDs or games
  • Computer files, or something which stores electronic data such as a CD, DVD, Blu-ray or hard drive
  • Books, newspapers, magazines, or any other print or writing
  • Sound recordings
  • Pictures, photographs, or anything with words, images, or symbols printed on it - such as a billboard, artwork or item of clothing

Since the Classification Office opened in 1994 we have classified jigsaw puzzles, T-shirts, paintings, billboards, playing cards, comics, business signs, bumper stickers, calendars, emails, letters, chat logs, campervans, and a drink can.

Restricted films and DVDs

The majority of publications we classify are restricted films and DVDs.

Although the definition of what things can be classified is quite broad, the Classification Office mostly classifies restricted-level films, TV series and games on DVD/Blu-ray, online or for cinema release. This is because films and restricted games must be labelled before being supplied or exhibited in New Zealand.

Learn more about what kinds of publications the Classification Office has dealt with in a financial year in our annual reports.

Computer files and online material

Publications other than films and games are most often submitted for classification by law enforcement officials and the courts.

The great majority of this material consists of computer files downloaded or distributed via the internet. These publications are usually submitted as part of a court case, or by officials (like the Department of Internal Affairs' Censorship Compliance Unit) who have reason to believe that they are objectionable.

The address of a website on a browser

Broadcasting, press, and advertising standards

The Classification Office is not responsible for broadcasting, press, or advertising standards.

BSA website

Broadcasting

The Classification Act does not regulate broadcasting.

Broadcasts do not fit under the definition of 'supply' or 'exhibition' under the Classification Act. Broadcasting on TV and radio in New Zealand is regulated by the Broadcasting Act 1989. However, if a film has been cut or banned by the Office or any previous film censorship body, the broadcaster must obtain a waiver from the Chief Censor to show the film. Unless the permission of the Chief Censor is obtained such a film cannot be shown on television.

Complaints about broadcasts should be directed to the broadcaster concerned, and then to the Broadcasting Standards Authority.

Press Council website

Newspapers and magazines

Newspapers and magazines can be classified, but complaints are usually dealt with by the New Zealand Press Council.

The Classification Act allows for the classification of print material, and so newspapers or specific articles may be submitted for classification. Only one issue of a newspaper (New Truth and TV Extra) has been banned by the Classification Office, and in 2006 a single issue of the Otago student magazine Critic was banned.

An alternative to submitting newspapers to the Classification Office is for people to contact the New Zealand Press Council.

Advertising Standards Authority website

Advertising

Some forms of advertising can be classified, but advertising is generally regulated by the Advertising Standards Authority.

The advertising industry practises self-regulation under the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), an industry-run organisation. While print and film advertising are able to be classified under the Classification Act, complaints about advertising will generally be dealt with by the ASA's Advertising Standards Complaints Board.

Complaints about an advertisement can be made either to the advertiser itself, or directly to the ASA. If a complaint is made to the ASA then the Advertising Standards Complaints Board will deal with a complaint on behalf of the advertiser. They do not work within a legal framework, but have a set of agreed codes which can be read on the ASA website.