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Thinking about your holiday viewing

Posted on 01 December 2015 by Michelle

We recently asked in a UMR survey whether people would find it useful to have the classification labels that are used for cinema and DVD applied to television content. 68% of people surveyed said yes, it would be useful to see these labels on television shows as well as movies.

Most people who said they'd find the labels useful pointed to them being a useful guide for making viewing choices for children.

Don't always get to see TV content before kids see it and can be difficult to judge appropriateness

[Would use labels] To ensure children in the house did not get to watch unsuitable programs accidentally

People in our survey mentioned not only the usefulness of classification labels in relation to making safe viewing choices for children; they also said that having classification labels on television shows would help them make informed choices for themselves and give them an idea about what sort of content to expect in a show.

It would save me having to IMDb shows all the time

Greater understanding or knowledge of what you will watch

Read more about the results of this research

Here at the Classification Office we classify television content for online providers (such as Netflix), and for DVD release, but not for broadcast or for broadcast catch up services (such as TVNZonDemand and 3NOW On Demand).

The classifications assigned by the Classification Office have a specific purpose - they are designed to give guidance and information to protect people from harmful content. Broadcasting codes and standards have a different purpose - to warn of content that people might find shocking, disturbing or offensive (they also have important functions in relation to privacy, fairness and balance in our media).

Because of their different purposes, this can result in situations where you have content carrying an AO or AO 9:30pm classification (find out more about these on the BSA website) at broadcast that been classified anywhere from M (unrestricted) to R18 (restricted to adults) for DVD or online distribution (through platforms like Netflix).

For example, shows that sit in the 8:30pm AO timeband like Criminal Minds and The Blacklist have been assigned classifications of R13 and R16; shows that sit in the AO 9:30pm timeband like The Walking Dead and Shameless have been classified R16 and R18. There are also shows in the 9:30pm timeband that have been classified as M, such as House of Cards and NCIS:LA.

Our summers in New Zealand tend to be a mixed bag, and you may very well find yourself looking for sources of indoor entertainment for you and your family over the Christmas holidays. With the ability to now view at any time of the day broadcast content that would otherwise only be available beyond the 8:30pm watershed, you might want to take a little bit of a closer look at these shows and their associated classifications.

Over the next few weeks we'll be putting some information on our website to show you what sorts of classifications have been assigned to content that you'll be able to view on tv (and on broadcast catch up sites like TVNZonDemand and 3NOW On Demand). Keep an eye on our homepage for this!

If you'd like to find out what classification we've assigned to a television show, you can check on the NZ Register of Classification Decisions, or get in touch with us directly (0508 236 767 or We don't classify all television content but we're happy to give you whatever information we can to help you and your families make safe and informed viewing choices.

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.

Family watching TV


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