Film and TV classification laws called into question in New Zealand

From: 3 News (3news.co.nz) Thu, 11 Jun 2009 11:34p.m.

New Zealand film and television classification laws are being brought into question with many businesses calling them outdated and prohibitive.

Every film or television show that comes to New Zealand cinemas, video stores or retail outlets has to be rated or classified to a particular age group.

If the movie is geared towards an older audience that classification has to be obtained in New Zealand.

Video store owner Andrew Armitage says business’ just want fairness with classification laws.

“We’re not asking for a relaxation of classification or censorship we just want fairness restored because it is too often prohibitive,” he says.

New Zealand adopts or cross-rates G, PG and M ratings from Australia and Britain.

Mr Armitage wants to see the threshold raised for the 15 plus age group.

Chief Censor Bill Hastings says they have been warned against such a move.

“The Australian New Zealand trans-Tasman Recognition Committee has decided that there are sufficient differences between Australia and New Zealand culture and law, that they recommended against creating a single market,” he says.

Five seasons of unclassified television show The L Word would have cost distributors $17,600 to be processed.

Mr Armitage says such price tags are a huge deterrent.

“Anything that has this red sticker on it has to go through the classification process, so that’s $1100 worth of classification costs right there,” he says.

Mr Hastings says the fees have remained the same for 13 years despite inflation, making them a bargain.

“Our classification fees are extremely competitive with Australia classification fees which range from $500 AUD to $5000 AUD.

The Chief Censor can also grant fee waivers dropping that cost to $275 each, a reduction automatically given to film festival movies.

International film festival director Bill Gosden says costs are still high despite the waiver.

“Although we do receive a concession rate, a fee waiver from the classification office, we still spent in excess of $30,000 last year in film censorship,” he says.

“Because so many titles are unavailable locally and legitimately consumers are finding other ways to access them, which retailers say not only affects business, but can also lead to illegal purchase and distribution.”

3 News

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