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Taking control, part deux: It's a jungle out there

Posted on 03 November 2017 by the Information Unit

We know that people like seeing our official, trusted classification information on online streaming platforms, but unfortunately the law hasn't kept up with the times. And so there's currently no legal enforcement of this. 

The good news is that many entertainment platforms do choose to use our classifications for their NZ storefronts – because this is what their customers want. Two good examples are Google Play Movies and movies on iTunes: when you sign in from a New Zealand account, it’s our home grown classifications you see.

Unfortunately, glitches in the matrix do occur from time to time. Sometimes we find that the classification being advertised isn’t the classification we gave it. 

This happened recently with the film Super Dark Times on Google Play and iTunes, being advertised with a New Zealand green G rating – meaning the film is suitable for everyone. We actually classified the film R16, with the descriptive note “violence, offensive language, drug use, sex scenes and content that may disturb”.

Now, Super Dark Times is a fantastic and thoughtful film. We were lucky enough to have been given permission to screen it earlier this year as part of our Censor for a Day programme for senior high school students. We’re keen on challenging the students who attend Censor for a Day with meaty films that they can really delve into and discuss – we’d previously used Ex Machina and Get Out – and, with all due respect, G films are unlikely to cut it in our programme. Super Dark Times was a hit and the students thought it was hard-hitting, affecting, and it really spoke to them as an honest portrayal of teenagers. The majority of students agreed with us that the film should by classified R16, and almost all of them thought it should have some kind of age restriction. 

The difference between R16 and G is huge, and incorrect information can have a big impact on families. People trust and use our classifications when they’re making decisions on what they want to watch. Lots of parents using online services will also have parental controls set in place that stop their children from accessing material above certain classifications. When the wrong classification is displayed for a film, those expectations and the ability for parents to set their boundaries are going to be thrown out of line. 

So what can you do? If you do spot a classification that seems a little bit funny, there are a few places you should check out. For official NZ ratings and classifications visit www.fvlb.org.nz. For additional parental advisory information take a look at Common Sense Media and IMDb, which basically give a rundown of the content a film is going to have that maybe not everyone will want to see. You can also send us an email at info@classificationoffice.govt.nz and ask for a copy of our written decision if you’re curious about why we decided on a classification.

If you do notice an incorrect classification online, let us know. We contacted Google and Apple yesterday to let them know about the Super Dark Times error. As we write this, the error has been fixed on Google Play and Apple is working on it.

This is a good outcome in this particular case, but it’s part of a wider issue. If people don’t have information they can trust there’s a higher risk of children and young people being exposed to content that’s distressing and potentially harmful, and without some smart regulation and consumer protection we’ll see more of these problems in future. 

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