The classification process
When we classify films, shows and video games, we weigh up potential harms with New Zealanders' rights to freedom of expression.
The first step in the classification process is obtaining the publication. The Classification Office receives publications from a number of different sources.
Submissions can be made by:
Assessing the publication
When a publication is submitted for classification, it is assigned to one of our Classification Advisors. Publications are prioritised according to urgency and an even distribution of workloads.
In some cases, such as films intended for cinema release, more than one staff member will review the publication (including either the Chief Censor or Deputy Chief Censor, or a Senior Classification Advisor).
We sometimes consult with stakeholders who have relevant expertise or experience, for example when making decisions that affect young people or which involve new technology.
The Classification Advisor examines the publication in its entirety and assesses it against the legislative criteria. Based on their analysis they will recommend a classification and also whether the publication (if it's a film or DVD) needs cuts.
The classification criteria
All publications in New Zealand (including films, video games, books etc) are classified using the same criteria.
When classifying publications, Classification Office staff follow legal criteria set out in in the Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act 1993 balancing this at all times with the right to freedom of expression as contained in section 14 of the Bill of Rights Act 1990
The criteria in detail:
Making a decision
The recommendation is peer reviewed and affirmed by senior staff who have delegated authority to make decisions on behalf of the Chief Censor.
Once a decision has been made to classify a publication, the Classification Office gives written notice of its decision to the submitter, including the reasons for the decision and the classification given.
If the publication receives a restricted classification we may restrict the publication to certain classes of people (e.g. on the basis of age), or for a specified purpose (e.g for scientific or artistic purposes).
Where the decision relates to a commercial film, video game, or DVD, we direct the Film and Video Labelling Body (FVLB) to issue a label for physical media. You can find out more about classification labels here.
Not all films need to be classified.
Exemptions cover any news and current affairs films, as well as documentaries. Films which are entirely of a religious, educational, scientific, political or historical nature, or that depict only travel, commercial advertisement, natural scenery or a recording of an event (e.g. a wedding) are also exempt. This list is not exhaustive and exemptions are not intended to be of a 'blanket' nature.
These exemptions don't apply to films that are likely to be age-restricted. Find out more about exemptions here.
Reconsiderations and reviews
In certain circumstances, the Classification Office may reconsider previous decisions it has made:
- Where an owner, maker, publisher or distributor requests a review at least three years after the original decision.
- Where the Chief Censor grants leave to a member of the public who has requested a review at least three years after the original decision.
- Where the publication has been altered significantly or there are special circumstances, the Chief Censor may grant leave a review a classification within three years of the original decision.
To request a reconsideration, click here.
Classification information in other languages
Key information about New Zealand's classification system is available to download in a variety of different languages.
There are interpreting services and services for deaf, hearing impaired, speech impaired and deafblind people wishing to communicate with government agencies.