skip to main content

Understanding the Classification System: New Zealanders' Views

24 June 2011

Maintaining a transparent and reliable classification system: new research from the Classification Office gauges New Zealanders' views of the censorship system

More than ever before, New Zealanders love watching films, playing games, and making use of the growing variety of other forms of entertainment media. The aim of the Office of Film and Literature Classification is to minimise access to content which may be harmful to the New Zealand public - our children and young people in particular. This is why age-restricted classification labels can be seen on films and games in retail outlets, cinemas, libraries and living rooms around the country.

An important role of the Classification Office is to carry out research, and we are pleased to release our latest report: Understanding the Classification System - New Zealanders' Views, produced by Colmar Brunton. This report updates previous research, Public Understanding of Censorship, conducted in 2006. Aspects of the research may be of particular interest to, among others: parents of children and young people, members of the entertainment industry, government departments and media students.

The aims of the research were to find out how New Zealanders' use of entertainment media is changing, to gauge the public's knowledge and perceptions of the Classification Office and the classification system, and to learn how people make use of the classification system in their day-to-day lives.

The Classification Office is pleased about the extent to which parents and guardians continue to trust and rely upon the classifications we produce. When selecting suitable films and games for children, the findings show that 92% of respondents place a high degree of importance on classifications (e.g. R16 or R18), and 90% on accompanying descriptive notes (e.g. 'contains violence'). These results show a substantial increase from the 2006 survey.

We are also encouraged by the finding that 69% of New Zealanders think the classification system is 'about right', and that 84% of those who feel they know enough to say think the Classification Office is doing a 'good' or 'excellent' job.

This new research shows that the public remain supportive of the classification system, and value the services provided by the Classification Office. While the results are positive there is no room for complacency - challenges continue to emerge, largely as a result of changes in technology and its role in shaping the use of entertainment media. Work also needs to be done to ensure that the public's knowledge of classification labels is maintained and improved, and that the labelling system is as clear and recognisable as possible. Respondents were broadly dissatisfied, for example, that unrestricted games are able to be sold in New Zealand without New Zealand classification labels.

A high level of engagement with the public is of paramount importance if the Classification Office is to maintain the effectiveness and transparency of the classification system. Research provided by the Classification Office not only helps us make informed classification decisions, but gives us a better understanding of the views and behaviours of the wider community in which we operate, as every New Zealander has a stake in, and is affected by the decisions we make.

Understanding the Classification System - New Zealanders' Views presents the results of an online survey of 2000 New Zealanders aged 18 years and over carried out between 7 and 23 February 2011 - it has a maximum sampling error of +/- 2.2% at a confidence level of 95%.

Understanding the Classification System: New Zealanders' views (2011) (PDF, 1.33MB)

For more information about the classification system, contact our Information Unit.

June 2016: Note that this research has been updated since this news article was published: Understanding the Classification System: New Zealanders' views (2016) (PDF, 1.33MB)