A blog by members of our Information Unit
We provide information to other staff at the Classification Office, to the public, and to industry members - we are not involved in assigning classifications. The content of our blog posts will be wide-ranging - for example we'll be discussing censorship and freedom of speech, pornography, research, or other aspects of our work at the Classification Office. Keep up with our blog posts by following us on Facebook and Twitter.
We want discussion to be as free and open as possible, but please be aware that we will not approve any comments that:
Posted on 12 June 2019 by David Shanks
At our office we try to ensure that Kiwis get all the information they need before they watch a movie or series, so people can make viewing choices that are right for them. Increasingly we are less about ‘censorship’ and more about empowering Kiwis to make their own informed choices.
A good example popped up this week after my office was told about themes of sexual violence and child abuse in a film called The Perfection. It initially landed via Netflix as 16+ with a note for ‘Language, violence, nudity’. This looks to me like a US rating. I checked with my counterparts overseas, and found that the Aussies initially rated it as MA15+, with the note ‘Strong Nudity, Strong Violence, Strong Blood and Gore, Strong Coarse Language, Strong Horror Themes, Horror Violence’ and the Brits gave it an 18, with a note for ‘Sexual violence, suicide references’.
Posted on 23 May 2019 by Kaya
We asked Kaya, one of our Youth Advisory Panel members, to share her thoughts around the importance of young people working with organisations.
Posted on 21 May 2019 by Chief Censor David Shanks
New Zealand Youth Week is a great time to celebrate young people by recognising their contributions and achievements. The Office of Film and Literature Classification understands that our decisions affect young people, and so it is essential we include them in our work. Our Youth Advisory Panel is made up of a diverse group of individuals from all over the Wellington region. They regularly meet to discuss various issues and experiences and share their insights with us.
We have members who are heavily into politics and current affairs, and others who just love to watch movies! Each has a valuable perspective and knowledge to share and one thing they have in common is their passion for youth voice. Let me share with you some of the amazing things they have done over the past year…
Posted on 31 May 2018 by Chief Censor David Shanks
I’ve been reflecting on the recent media coverage about the ‘menstruation issue’ of Critic student magazine. It was the liberal use of the “c” word (censorship) that caught my attention, as you might expect.
Censorship can be an ugly thing. But every country needs to find an approach that works to balance freedom of speech, and the harms that can ensue from abuse of that freedom.
Posted on 01 May 2018 by Dr Claire Henry, Massey University
It can be a minefield to figure out what media content is suitable for young people in your care, how they might react to it, and how to discuss what they see in movies, TV shows, and video games.
You may have wondered: How does a teenager’s brain work? Why do they seem to think with their emotions? How do I talk to kids about sensitive issues that come up in the media? With 30 years of experience in the youth health sector, Dr Sue Bagshaw from the Collaborative Trust became our helpful guide to understanding the challenges and opportunities that media content can present for young people and their parents.
Posted on 01 January 2018 by Lily
For the past couple of months, the OFLC has been working in partnership with some amazing people to create resources for parents and caregivers that offer realistic, easy to implement strategies aimed at helping you communicate with the young people in your life. These resources aren’t aimed at inducing guilt or telling you to be better: we know you’re doing the best you can. We know these conversations can be hard. We just want to put more tools in your toolbox, and make it easier for you to do the things you want to be doing already.
Posted on 11 December 2017 by Paul
The internet is buzzing about creepy YouTube videos at the moment. The first article to really catapult this issue into the mainstream was Something is Wrong on the Internet, which is lengthy but well worth reading as it details some of the immediate concerns around these videos.
A lot of the discourse that has come out since then has focussed on the mere existence of these videos; a concern that these videos are not just unsettling but that they are inappropriate for children, and yet are being targeted at them - and the wool is being pulled over parents’ eyes because of the way that these videos are being presented.
That is a problem, but we all need to take a collective step back and breathe. This kind of confusion isn’t new. What is new is the scale in which this kind of confusion is occurring, and the fact that much of this problematic content is being created for and targeted at children (generally pre-schoolers), on the back of new digital marketing forces that no-one seems to fully understand.
Posted on 08 November 2017 by Paul
We’ve had a few emails about loot boxes lately – mostly to do with their similarity to gambling, and that they’re accessible to children.
Loot boxes have become increasingly visible in the videogame landscape, and are included in big budget games such as Middle Earth: Shadow of War, Overwatch, and the upcoming Star Wars: Battlefront 2, with little examination of the potential harms that can arise from such systems
Posted on 03 November 2017 by the Information Unit
We know that people like seeing our official, trusted classification information on online streaming platforms, but unfortunately the law hasn't kept up with the times. And so there's currently no legal enforcement of this.
The good news is that many entertainment platforms do choose to use our classifications for their NZ storefronts - because this is what their customers want. Two good examples are Google Play Movies and movies on iTunes: when you sign in from a New Zealand account, it's our home grown classifications you see.
Unfortunately, glitches in the matrix do occur from time to time. Sometimes we find that the classification being advertised isn't the classification we gave it.
This happened recently with the film Super Dark Times on Google Play and iTunes when it was advertised with a G rating but actually classified as R16.
Posted on 02 November 2017 by Chief Censor David Shanks
The future of censorship has been in the news again. A Stuff article titled “Classification Office refocuses future due to lack of pornos and an evolving digital future” has attracted some attention lately.
This article is long on potentially confusing comment and light on facts. Let me put the record straight. Most people don’t realise that we are both government and industry funded. The Classification Office has received just under $2M in government funding since it was established in 1994. This reflects the work we do for government officials – examining and classifying material that has been seized by the Police, Customs or other authorities.
Posted on 20 October 2017 by Lily
With Hallowe’en coming up, horror movies will be creepy-crawling onto screens everywhere. As parents trying to guide our children through their media experiences with as little emotional fallout as possible, we need to remember the effect that horror movies can have on kids. They can cause vivid nightmares, a fear of the dark, trouble sleeping, refusing to sleep alone. Or in the case of eleven year old me, a bladder infection because I didn’t want to pee in case there was a clown in the toilet.
Posted on 27 September 2017 by Lily
September 25 marked the start of International Banned Books Week, an annual event that celebrates our right to read. As RuPaul has taught us, reading is fundamental. So here at the Office of Film and Literature Classification, we decided celebrate some very special banned books. What follows is a list of three books by New Zealand authors that have had some dubious encounters with local censors over the years
Posted on 22 September 2017 by Paul
Restricting access to movies, games and other entertainment media is a lot more difficult than it was in the days before online streaming, and we’re looking to focus more on education and better information to help young people build resilience and the ability to critically engage with the media they choose to view.
Having said this, some kind of restrictions on content are definitely still important, and children especially need to be protected from upsetting and harmful content. So what can parents do? Is the online space really a free-for-all?
Posted on 13 September 2017 by Chief Censor David Shanks
After 90 days in the role of Chief Censor, I have been pausing for a moment to reflect on what the role means, and where it might be headed.
I have had a few people ask me the question about relevance of censorship in a digital age. Today, many of us always have our phones with us. Phones (along with tablets, laptops, and PC’s) provide us and our children with a window into virtually any content imaginable.
Posted on 20 July 2017 by Paul
We’ve just released the final report for our research project about the impact on young people of viewing sexual violence in entertainment media. You may know all about why we undertook the project and what it’s all about by now. The point of this post is to share some personal takeaways and observations from my own experience of interviewing young people for the research project.
Posted on 20 July 2017 by Henry (updated post)
RP labels aren't used very often, so why do we use them and what do they mean? You will sometimes see an RP13, RP16 or RP18 classification label on entertainment media like a movie or show (for example a series on Netflix or on DVD). An RP classification means that someone under the specified age must be supervised by a parent or guardian when viewing entertainment media. A guardian is considered to be a responsible adult (18 years and over), for example a family member or teacher who can provide guidance.
Posted on 15 July 2017 by Kim
Netflix’s To The Bone has received media attention and criticism prior to its release on July 14. The film is based on the experience of the director and follows Ellen, a 20-year- old woman with anorexia, played by Lily Collins. There have been concerns about the film glamorising eating disorders and triggering body image and eating issues in vulnerable young people.
We received inquiries from a teacher and a psychologist who were concerned after seeing the film’s trailer. The trailer shows a gaunt Ellen counting calories, skipping meals, exercising excessively and fainting from starvation, all the while pretending to have her life under control. The people who approached us were worried that eating disorders could be glamorised and could potentially trigger body image and eating issues in vulnerable viewers.
Posted on 10 July 2017 by Chief Censor David Shanks
After fewer than two months in the role as Chief Censor, I have had the privilege of launching the final report my office has produced on the impacts on young people of viewing sexual violence on screen.
I was hugely proud to be able to present this work and to talk about it on a national stage. It is important. It is relevant. And it explores issues that touch so many of us, but are often left in the too hard basket.
Posted on 14 June 2017 by Paul
A mod is a modification that is made to a game by changing aspects of the game’s coding. They are files that are easy to download and install. These changes can impact games in various ways: these can be minor changes, such as adding more sophisticated lighting effects into the game; major changes, such as changing the entire story of the game; or somewhere in between. We answer an email asking whether it would be illegal to allow a child to play a restricted game if they used a mod to take out all of the restricted content from it.
Posted on 31 May 2017 by Paul
We recently got our grubby little mitts on the technical alpha of Sea of Thieves (which looks excellent), a whimsical game about sailing the high seas and looking for treasure. The game is played ideally with a group of crewmates as much of the gameplay involves mundane tasks (changing the length and angle of the different sails, raising and lowering the anchor, and holding a lantern to see at night). Players can either work co-operatively, or competitively (through combat and attacking other players’ ships). What more could a kid want?