Our role can be a little complicated, so here's an overview of what we do and don't do. For more information, you can download our factsheet.
Why we exist
We work to inform and empower New Zealanders to watch content in a positive way while safeguarding them from harm. Our role is changing in the digital age, but classifying content remains a core part of what we do.
The Classification Office is an independent Crown entity and media regulator operating at arm's length from central government.
The Minister of Internal Affairs is responsible for managing the Government's relationship with the Classification Office.
We receive submissions and can call in publications that may need to be restricted or banned under the Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act 1993 (Classification Act). We then put them through our classification process to arrive at a decision which we record in a register.
What we do and what others do
Films, video games and other publications
Before a producer or distributor can release a film in cinemas, a DVD or a video game in New Zealand, they contact the Film and Video Labelling Body of New Zealand (FVLB) to arrange consumer labelling. The FVLB determines an appropriate age rating (G, PG or M) and content warning note for the label. If they think the publication has content that requires restriction, they refer it to us.
The Classification Office has the responsibility to age restrict or ban publications in New Zealand that we consider to be 'objectionable' or harmful to the public good. This can also include material submitted to us by the Department of Internal Affairs, Police, Customs, and Courts. Material submitted by these agencies can include child sex abuse videos and images, and violent extremist publications.
Anyone can apply to have something classified and if they disagree with a decision we make, they can request a fresh review of the content by the Film and Literature Board of Review.
Most major commercial video on-demand and streaming platforms to show appropriate New Zealand age ratings and content warnings on-screen. Where providers self-rate, we audit their decisions and manage any complaints.
Some forms of advertising can be classified, but in general, the advertising industry practises self-regulation. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) sets standards and supports an independent complaints and appeal process for adjudicating complaints about all advertisements in all media.
Media and news content
Newspapers and magazines can be classified, but the news media generally self-regulaties. The New Zealand Media Council (NZMC) is an independent forum responsible for resolving complaints about news media and online news content across a range of platforms. This includes newspapers, magazines, certain providers of video on-demand content, online content, and digital sites with news content that are accepted as members of the Media Council.
Broadcast media (TV and radio)
The Broadcasting Standards Authority (BSA) is responsible for ensuring that all broadcasters (TV and radio) operating in New Zealand follow standards for content. The BSA is also responsible for on-demand content, which has also been broadcast on TV or radio.
Harmful digital communications
Netsafe is a non-profit with a focus on online safety. It provides free support, advice and education. Netsafe has the responsibility under the Harmful Digital Communications Act 2015 to help people dealing with serious or repeated bullying, harassment and abuse happening via text, emails or social media. It can include racist, sexist and religiously intolerant comments – plus those about disabilities or sexual orientation.
Department of Internal Affairs
The Department is responsible for ensuring the Classification Act is enforced. Complaints can be made here. For media queries, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
What is a "publication"?
The definition of a "publication" in the Classification Act is pretty much anything that includes video, images, sound or text, either analogue or digital, including:
- Films, content on streaming or video on-demand services, video cassettes, CDs, DVDs, hard drives or games.
- Social media posts, GIFs and digital files on computers or phones, and web pages in some circumstances.
- Books, newspapers, magazines, or any other print or writing.
- Sound recordings.
- Pictures, photographs, or anything with words, images, or symbols printed on it (over the years, we have classified items including comics, bumper stickers, emails, T-shirts and campervans).
How we make decisions
The classification process involves examining the material, considering it against criteria in the Classification Act, and drafting a decision. We occasionally consult with stakeholders with appropriate expertise or experience, for example, when making decisions that affect young people or which involve new technology. The decision is then reviewed and affirmed by two senior classification advisors who have delegated authority to make decisions on behalf of the Chief Censor.
Once a publication has been classified, the decision is entered into the New Zealand Register of Classification Decisions and made available on our website. Where the decision relates to a commercial DVD, film or game, we then direct the Film and Video Labelling Body to issue a label for physical media.
Anyone unhappy with a classification decision we've made can request a new review of the content by the Film and Literature Board of Review (provided it's a recent decision), or they may apply for a reconsideration.
- We are transparent with each other and with Aotearoa.
- We are honest in what we say and decisions are made with integrity.
- We speak up – even when it may not be popular – and are courageous in our work.
- We treat each other fairly, equally and with equity in our daily lives.
- We collaborate with each other, experts, external agencies and the New Zealand public.
- We care for each other, for the work we do and for all New Zealanders.
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