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Better safeguards for Commercial Video On-Demand viewers

Classifying on-demand video content will be made mandatory to bring it in line with other media and provide better guidance and protections to families and young people, says Internal Affairs Minister Tracey Martin.

“The way in which New Zealanders access entertainment has changed and our classifications system has not kept pace,” the Minister said. “Our children and young people are at particular risk of harm from this, which is why we are making changes to fix this problem.”

The Classification Act will be amended to require Commercial Video on-Demand (CVoD) providers, such as Netflix and Lightbox, to show the same classifications and consumer warnings as seen on films and DVDs.

The new framework will mean:

 CVoD content must have a classification before it airs in New Zealand.

  • CVoD providers will be able to self-classify content using the Rating Tool being developed by the Chief Censor, or their own systems accredited by the Classification Office.
  • The Office will approve and enforce the classifications, with reviews of decisions made by the Film and Literature Board of Review, as is the case for movies and DVDs.

 “We’ve had a voluntary regime for classification for streaming services, which means that ratings and consumer warnings can be inconsistent or missing,” the Minister says.

 “The worst example of this is what happened around the first season of ‘13 Reasons Why’ when there were no warnings around sexual violence and suicide for that show.

“The changes will standardise classifications for video-on demand and bring them in line with films and DVDs so that families and young people know what they’re about to see when they sit down to a show or film.

“This is only one piece of the overall media reform we need, but it’s an important step in helping to manage unnecessary harm to young and vulnerable people and allowing them to make informed choices.”

Self-classification will allow content providers to provide relevant classification for New Zealand consumers without creating a significant delay in access to shows and films.

The proposals come following consultation with the public and providers and are likely to be introduced to Parliament as an Amendment Bill in late November.

Officials will be conducting further consultation with industry and regulatory bodies over the coming weeks to ensure that the proposed regulatory changes are fit for purpose.

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