New Zealand's outgoing chief censor has urged the Government to hurry up and deliver the law change it proposed on
streaming services like Netflix.
Eight months since the Government announced a plan to update broadcasting rules, including making online streaming services subject to classification and content standards, chief censor Andrew Jack has revealed his frustration at what he says has been a
total lack of progress.
Jack spoke to the Herald on Sunday in the final week of his six-year tenure at the top of the classification office and cited concerns around pornography as well as how issues like suicide, rape and sexual violence are being used by entertainment
companies for commercial gain - beyond the reach of regulation. He whinged:
Nothing has actually happened, just nothing. And I have to say that is a source of significant frustration. We know some of this material is causing harm, we know the measures which can improve the situation, but nothing has actually happened.
The only entities winning out of the current situation are the entities selling depictions of sexual violence as entertainment.
In my view, you can't just announce you're going to do something, and not do it.
Arts, Culture and Heritage Minister Maggie Barry said the Government intends to refer the bill to a select committee this year. She said:
Work on the bill has been fairly complex. It needs to be future-proofed in an era of rapid technological change, as well as being practical for existing providers and not putting barriers to the entry of new services.
In his final days as chief censor, a role he wanted to continue but was unsuccessful in seeking a third term, Jack said there were other aspects to consider, specifically around pornography and depictions of suicide and sexual violence. Jack said there
was absolutely a concern over pornography becoming an unwelcome form of sex education in young generations, though more research needed to be done to understand what exactly young Kiwis are consuming online.
Jack spoke of complains about the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why:
I can't talk specifically about the series you talked about because the classification office has called that in and is in the process of deciding whether that needs to be subject to a restriction or a warning on it.
Historically as a country we've tried the 'let's not talk about it' approach [to suicide] which has not been successful. We've an appalling rate of youth suicide.
Where those issues are dealt with in a positive way, it's a really good thing. But it's where you get depictions of suicide which are instructional, or two-dimensional or suggest it's a viable option for dealing with some of the tribulations life
sometimes deals at you.
New Zealand film censor surveys feminists, anti-sex work campaigners, police and academics to find that child protection issues re sexual violence in the media can be mitigated by extending film censorship to the internet
New Zealand's film censors of the OFLC are calling for the extension of their remit to internet streaming services such as Lightbox and Netflix.
Currently, apart from some one-off cases, the New Zealand censor has no influence over the labelling and warnings that come with streamed content.
Deputy chief censor Jared Mullen claimed that the public wanted such services too be censored by the OFLC:
Forty-seven percent of New Zealanders are now accessing streaming services regularly - that's at least weekly. So I think it is becoming more a part of New Zealanders lives and parents and young people are telling us the same thing. Their expectations
for content labelling are high, they want more specific information and they want that before they watch the show.
Ninety-two percent of Kiwis who are responsible for choosing entertainment for children actually use the classification and labels, which is an extraordinary number.
Mullen said the participants involved in new research generally agreed that content regulation laws should be extended to cover increasingly popular streaming services. However this is hardly surprising when noting that the surveyed group were feminist
campaigners, anti-sex work campaigners, police and feminist dominated academia.
Mullen noted that the groups were canvassed:
On their views of firstly what they're seeing in terms of sexual violence portrayal in entertainment media, and how they are seeing it effect young people. The concern across all of those groups is the portrayal of sexual violence... is often
unrealistic, it can be sensationalised and is often portraying some really harmful myths about sexual violence which don't accord with reality.
Asked about the legal practicalities of extending film censorship to the internet, Mullen said there were half a dozen pieces of legislation that would need changing:
Relatively easy amendments - there's a range of regulations that would need to change, but other than that, no - it's not difficult.
Amnesty International (AI) has slammed an unprecedented ban by Thailand's military junta on using the internet to communicate with three critics of the monarchy, noting that authorities had hit new lows in curbing free speech.
The new order makes any online interaction with the trio, including contacting them, and following or sharing their social media posts, a jailable offence under an extreme censorship law titled the Computer Crime Act.
The trio are Thai academics Somsak Jeamteerasakul and Pavin Chachavanpongpun, as well as ex-reporter Andrew MacGregor Marshall. They all onw live outside of Thailand.
Josef Benedict, AI's Deputy Director for Southeast Asia said:
The Thai authorities have plunged to new depths in restricting people's freedom of expression. After imprisoning people for what they say both online and offline, and hounding critics into exile, they want to cut people off from each other altogether.
New Zealand's Internal Affairs Minister Peter Dunne has announced the appointment of David Shanks as the Chief Censor of Film and
Literature for a three-year term. Dunne said:
Mr Shanks is a senior public servant who has held roles as chief legal officer and a number of acting deputy chief executive positions.
His senior management and legal experience in the public sector will be of great benefit to the Classification Office.
I would also like to acknowledge the significant work of outgoing Chief Censor, Dr Andrew Jack and thank him for his passion and commitment over the last six years.
During his time, Dr Jack has overseen a number of complex classification decisions that have involved careful balancing of freedom of expression with avoiding potential harm, and continued to advance the public debate about censorship issues in a modern
The Chief Censor is responsible for protecting New Zealanders from material likely to cause harm while balancing the important right to freedom of expression.
The Office of Film and Literature Classification is an independent Crown entity, established under the Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act 1993 to examine and censor publications, including films, videos, books, magazines, sound recordings
and computer files.