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Don't agree? Seek a review

Posted on 15 January 2014 by Michelle

The Classification Office is not the only authority that can issue classification decisions in New Zealand - the other body is the Film and Literature Board of Review. Sometimes, confusion arises between the role of the Classification Office led by the Chief Censor and the Board.

What is the Film and Literature Board of Review?

It's a 9-member, part-time Board appointed by the Governor-General on the recommendation of the Minister of Internal Affairs, the Minister of Justice and Minister of Women's Affairs. The Department of Internal Affairs provides administrative services to the Board.

What does the Board do?

Any person who is dissatisfied with a classification decision of the Classification Office may seek a review by the Film and Literature Board of Review.

The Board is independent of the Classification Office. The Board's President has a unique power - he or she can issue an interim restriction order which prevents a publication being supplied, distributed, or exhibited to someone under 18, or exhibited in a public place, until a review has been held and a classification determined by the Board.

The Board of Review does not actually 'review' the Office's decision. It must undertake its own examination of the publication using the criteria set out in the Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act 1993. It then issues a new classification decision which may be less restrictive, more restrictive or the same as the decision made by the Classification Office.

The Classification Office publishes the Board's decisions in the New Zealand Register of Classification Decisions.

More information on appealing a Classification Office decision can be found on the Getting a classification changed page of our site.

Past decisions of the Board

Since 2000, the Board has reviewed 117 Classification Office decisions. It has tended to assign classifications that are the same (106), or less restrictive (8), than those of the Classification Office.

The Board's decision on the film 127 Hours, which lowered the classification from R16 to RP16, is one of the many interesting decisions featured as a case study on our student website for Media Studies students. Read the 127 Hours case study.

The Board has only assigned a higher classification three times since 2000. It made Me, Myself & Irene R15 (the Classification Office had made it R13), it raised the Classification Office's decision on Baise-Moi from R18 to 'R18 and restricted to film festival screenings', and it classified the New Zealand book Into the River as R14. The Classification Office had assigned the book an unrestricted classification.

If you have any questions, we're here to help!

You can phone us on 0508 236 767 or email us on

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.

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