Classification of media content in NZ is similar to the Australian scheme. In fact, the NZ classification system incorporates some Australian classification decisions of films and computer games as binding legal classifications.
All films and some DVDs must be submitted to the government Film and Video Labelling Body (FVLB) before being supplied to the public. Films intended only for television broadcast are exempted from this requirement. The Labelling Body provides a classification and label for all unrestricted content and refers films that may need to be banned or restricted to the Office of Film and Literature Classification (OFLC). Labels used by the FVLB include unrestricted classifications of G, PG, and M, while the OFLC assigns the restricted classifications of 13, 15, 16, 18, and R. In addition to the classification, an explanatory note also lists whether there is content in a film such as offensive language, sex scenes, violence, cruelty or other potentially disturbing material.
When content has been classified in Australia or the UK as unrestricted then the FVLB will apply the equivalent New Zealand classification without viewing the film. Content not previously classified in Australia or the UK that is likely to be unrestricted (G, PG or M) is viewed and classified by the FVLB.
Content that has been age-restricted in Australia or the UK, Refused Classification in Australia, or banned in the UK must be formally classified by the OFLC.
Though the legislation governing the classification of films in NZ defines ‘film’ to include ‘any other medium with moving images’, computer games are expressly exempt from labelling requirements. This means that computer games are not required to be submitted for classification or labelling unless they contain age-restricted content or have been banned or classified with an age restriction in the Australia or the UK. Games with restricted content must be classified by the OFLC and be marked with a NZ label before sale, while non-restricted computer games sold in NZ are often sold with their overseas label visible.
Television content is exempt from the Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act 1993 (NZ) and regulated under codes of practice created by industry and registered with the Broadcasting Standards Authority. Television stations classify their own content according to the codes. Individuals with complaints about content raise them first with the broadcaster but can elevate them to the Broadcasting Standards Authority if a satisfactory resolution is not reached.
There are separate television classification systems and watershed requirements for free-to-air and subscription television services. Free-to-air television rated G can be broadcast at all times, while Parental Guidance Recommended (PGR) content may be screened between 9 am until 4 pm and after 7 pm until 6 am. Adults only programming may be screened between midday and 3 pm on weekdays (except school holidays) and after 8.30 pm until 5 am. Subscription television is rated G, PG, M, 16, and 18 and may be broadcast at any time as long as filtering technology is automatically made available to subscribers free of charge and regularly promoted by the broadcaster for subscriber use. When filtering technology is not automatically available, content rated 18 is restricted to the hours of 8 pm until 6 am daily and 9 am until 3 pm on weekdays (excluding school holidays).
Regulation of IPTV is based on the degree of interactivity allowed by the service. Programming that is linear (transmitted at a scheduled time) is generally subject to television broadcasting and content regulations, while non-linear content (that selected by the user and shown when the viewer wishes) is exempt from those regulations.
Internet content is largely unregulated; however, content which is ‘objectionable’ cannot be distributed over the internet, or through any other medium. Objectionable content is defined by NZ law as that which
describes, depicts, expresses, or otherwise deals with matters such as sex, horror, crime, cruelty, or violence in such a manner that the availability of the publication is likely to be injurious to the public good.
Possession of objectionable content is also prohibited.
According to the OFLC, computer files downloaded from the internet fall under the purview of the Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act, making internet-sourced publications, films and games downloaded in NZ subject to local law. Further, the OLFC has jurisdiction over websites that are operated or updated from NZ. Criminal laws prohibit the distribution and possession of child pornography, but NZ has not passed legislation to allow issuance of take-down notices for objectionable content. A significant number of ISPs in NZ have voluntarily implemented a filter to screen child sexual abuse images.
All pornographic films supplied to the public are required to be classified by the OFLC before public release. Pornographic publications and internet content are not required to be classified; however, publications may be voluntarily submitted to the OFLC by a distributor, law enforcement agency, or interested party for labelling. The sale of pornography is restricted to adults, and it is an offence to knowingly supply, distribute, exhibit or display restricted material to anyone other than the audience specified.
Objectionable material, including depictions of child pornography, rape, and bestiality, is strictly prohibited. Knowing possession or distribution of objectionable material via the internet or otherwise is punishable by fine and imprisonment.