Government considering mandatory classifications for streaming services

This looks like being too late and impractical, especially for overseas streaming services .

NZ Herald: NZ Government mulling mandatory classification rules for Netflix and other streaming services

The Government is exploring the possibility of making classifications for on-demand streaming services, such as Netflix and Lightbox, mandatory.

What about Youtube? Facebook?

What about live streaming? That’s where one of the biggest problems is with objectionable material.

Minister of Internal Affairs Tracey Martin said this would bring streaming services in line with other forms of media in New Zealand.

The Government today started consultation on options on classifying content that is available online.

“The way in which New Zealanders access entertainment has changed and New Zealand’s classifications system is not keeping pace.”

It is nowhere near the mark and it’s hard to see how it could keep pace, with the amount of content that becomes available.

She said the current classification system was built around traditional platforms, such as cinema-released films and broadcast television programmes.

The Films, Videos and Publications Classification Act was passed in 1993.

But the media landscape has changed significantly since then.

“Many commercial video-on-demand services do self-classify content under a voluntary scheme provided by the New Zealand Media Council,” Martin said.

But, she added, those classifications had not always been consistent with New Zealand’s regime and some streaming service providers chose not to participate in the voluntary scheme.

“This inconsistency means it can be confusing for parents trying to pick something for their kids to watch or that helps young people make informed choices.”

The only way any sort of consistency could be achieved is if all content was checked and classified by one entity, like the New Zealand Censor. A recent classification by our censor of the streamed video of the Christchurch mosque massacres was generally supported, but the classification of the killer’s manifesto was controversial.

Martin said it was the risk of children being harmed that had driven the process.

Research from the Chief Censor’s office shows 76 per cent of New Zealanders are concerned about children’s and teens’ exposure to visual media content.

Classifying material before it becomes available would be hard enough, but how do you then ensure children don’t watch restricted material. Banned content is only a small part of the problem.

Martin said the reaction to the Netflix show “13 Reasons Why”, which features graphic suicide scenes and scenes of rape, was an example of the issue.

“As with many services and media that have developed from the internet, this issue of classification is one that many countries are looking at and the Censor has told me that there is international interest in what we are doing.

“Our work will also be informed by the steps being taken in Australia and the United Kingdom.”

Sydney Morning Herald: Netflix gets approval to classify own shows after two-year trial.

The Morrison government has given Netflix the green light to regulate film and television classification on its streaming platform in an unprecedented shift following a two-year trial.

Communications Minister Mitch Fifield approved the ongoing use of the scheme, which allows the company to quickly rank content between G and R18+ after the review was finalised in August.

The new system removes immediate control of classifications for movies from the Classification Board for the first time since it was established in 1970.

The Classification Board will retain the power to change the ratings made under the new system, and decisions can also be appealed to the Classification Review Board.

Free-to-air stations already classify their own programming under a process administered by another organisation, the Australian Communications and Media Authority.

Ratings are generated by considering the film’s themes, level of violence, sex, drug use, nudity and the language — before being given a classification of G, PG, M, MA15, R18 or being refused.

UK: BBFC Digital Age Ratings

People are concerned to know about how best to choose appropriate films, TV and music videos for their children and families to watch online, on their computers, tablets, games consoles and smartphones.

To provide you with guidance, the BBFC works with a number of on demand services to give age ratings for video content available for download and streaming.

Some of these platforms also provide parental controls, enabling parents to make films with an appropriate age rating available to their children

Using BBFC age ratings for online content helps children and families make the same informed viewing choices when they’re using digital video services, as they can when they’re going to the cinema or renting or buying DVDs and Blu-ray.

Classifications would help responsible parents who can control everything their children watch, but there are big holes in the system. This has been a problem since VCR and DVD content became available – and kids found and watched their parents’ collections.

Classifications have long been a problem. I remember wearing a coat over my school uniform and being allowed in to watch A Clockwork Orange, which in New Zealand was rated R20 until 1984.

The good old days – I don’t remember this one (from Kiwi censorship’s most infamous moments):

Then there was the bizarre decision around the 1967 film adaptation of James Joyce’s Ulysses. Little old New Zealand made worldwide headlines for its decision to segregate male and female viewers. Cinemas found their own ways to interpret the law, whether via separate sessions, the use of stalls and circle seating, or even a rope.

And who new that we had political interference?

Film could also provide inspiration for a solution should the eventual decision on Into the River not go the way of public opinion. 1942 film Love on the Dole focuses on a young woman who decides to become a rich bookmaker’s mistress in order help her family through the Great Depression.

It was initially banned, but Government MPs (including the Prime Minister Peter Fraser) pressured the censor into reviewing the decision. However, knowing that the notoriously conservative appeal board were unlikely to make a change, the Government made the simple decision to replace the entire board. Unsurprisingly, the film was passed for general exhibition.

The modern means of (attempted) interference is censorship by social media outrage or instant petition.

Classification guidance would be helpful for some, but it’s unlikely to make a lot of difference – people, including children, are resourceful in finding ways of watching forbidden content.

Taketh and giveth – a Government media release from Friday: Helping more New Zealanders access online services

More New Zealanders than ever will be able to access online services safely and securely, with today’s launch of a new Digital Inclusion Blueprint, Minister Megan Woods has announced.

“In a world where the internet impacts more and more of our lives, it’s important that all New Zealanders have the tools and skills they need to access online services and use the internet safely and securely.

“Some people can’t easily apply for jobs as many recruitment processes start online, kids may be prevented from doing their homework, and others could feel isolated from more digitally savvy friends and family who communicate using social media.  We want to ensure no one is left out or left behind as more and more of our lives move online.

“Today we are launching the Digital Inclusion Blueprint, which lays out how people can take full advantage of the internet. This will help us identify groups of New Zealanders who may struggle to access online services.

“This Blueprint will be used to coordinate the planning of different Government and community initiatives, and identify where future investment and action is needed.

“Access to online service is a key priority is one of my priorities and an area Government has already invested in. For example, the Prime Minister recently announced $21 million funding for Regional Digital Hubs (RDHs) in towns to connect local people and businesses to digital services.


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  1. Gezza

     /  5th May 2019

    Alan Wilkinson & I had a brief discussion about this propoal late last night on Media Watch, and with a bit of luck my final comment will have self-destructed 10 seconds after I posted it.

    Because, although I’d never let on to him, I agree with Al that given the thousands of movies & TV programs already availablle, and likely to only increase, doing anything at the New Zealand end looks like it could well be Mission Impossible.

    • Conspiratoor

       /  5th May 2019

      Agreed G. More useless virtue signalling quietly eroding our freedom while the bad guys simply go underground to the one corner of the world left uncensored

      A good essay on this if you have the time…

      • Gezza

         /  5th May 2019

        I’m afraid I’ll have to disappoinment you on that, c, non ami.

        Some interfering old zen monk recently whined about the length of some of my most erudite essays. :/

        • Gezza

           /  5th May 2019

          Oh. I beg your pardon. You meant that’s an essay to READ, not one for me to write about.

          How embarrassing. 😬

          Hang on, I’ll have a look. 😐

          • Gezza

             /  5th May 2019

            Hmm. I wouldn’t even know how to access the “Dark Web” nor would I bother to try. There be dragons there, I suspect. And evil demons hell-bent on stealing my soul or control of my computer.

            Who knows? Besides, as the author points out, surfing that hidey-hole appears likely to attract the attention of the authorities, if not now, then some day.

            But I’ve had personal experience of how attempts to censor platforms can lead to ludicrous situations.

            I was regularly cellphone-videoing my pooks raising their 3 pukeko chicks & bringing them up to my fence, not long ago & posting clips here. I was also posting some on my Facebbok page. (I have only a tiny number of Facebook friends, mostly immefiate family, & I rarely visit it.)

            An adult pukeko flew into my yard & I tossed it a bread chunk out of my kitchen window, knowing that as they had chicks, it would flap up onto the fence, flap down to the other side, & them break it up & feed it to the loudly-crying pooklets.

            So I videoed it running up to the fence, & going up & over, big bread chunk in mouth. Because it was interesting & funny. And a lot of people don’t realise pooks can fly.

            I added a comment, given the clearly audible racket coming over the fence from the ever-hungry chicks, that this parent pook was on “a humanitarian mission, delivering food to the starving children”.

            They banned it! I got a message saying this material “breached their community standards” & that only I could view it.

            I sent a response on the link provided that it wasn’t objectionable material (it could only be seen by a handful of family & friends, & got a reply back next day, stating that had now been unblocked.

            Followed within seconds by another one that it had been blocked from viewing by anyone but me, because it breached their community standards! And there was no link for review this time.

            One hopes the net censor network won’t eventually all end up relying on AI to classify internet content.

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  5th May 2019

              Proving that FB also has an idiot as Chief Censor.

  2. Alan Wilkinson

     /  5th May 2019

    The real issue is why we still have an idiot as Chief Censor.

    • Pink David

       /  5th May 2019

      Because one a bureaucracy exists, it’s nearly impossible to get rid of it even if’ its purpose has long since disappeared.

  3. It’s like those on-line stores that sell alcohol and get you to press a button to prove your over eighteen. Just pointless.

    • Kitty Catkin

       /  5th May 2019

      I thought so until I realised that if you say that you’re 18 and you’re not, that’s your responsibility and not theirs.

  4. Kitty Catkin

     /  5th May 2019

    I know the book ‘Love on the Dole’ and the bit about Sally becoming the mistress of the bookie is only at the end, it’s by no means the whole book. He is after her before that, but she doesn’t want to know.

    The book is all about the horrors of the era and the appalling hardships. It’s a graphic depiction of the desperation and poverty of that part of the UK at that time. It’s a brilliant book, and I think it was the author’s first. I reread it recently. It makes life on WINZ look like a soft option.


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