Classifying Commercial Video on-Demand content

  • Hon Tracey Martin
Internal Affairs

The Government is looking to make the classification of on-demand video content 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 Minister made the announcement today at the start of consultation on options for classifying content on Commercial Video on-Demand (CVoD) services such as Netflix and Lightbox.

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

“Our children and young people are at risk of harm from this, which is why we are consulting on proposed changes to quickly fix this problem.”

Research from the Chief Censor’s office shows 76% of New Zealanders are concerned about children and teens’ exposure to visual media content. 59% of New Zealanders are also worried that the wide range of media platforms makes it easier for children to access harmful media.

The Minister said that 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.

Lightbox began in New Zealand in 2014 and Netflix launched its service here in early 2015. A survey at the end of 2016 showed that nearly two in five households had subscription video on demand in the home

“Many Commercial Video on-Demand services do self-classify content under a voluntary scheme provided by the New Zealand Media Council,” Mrs Martin said.

“However, these classifications are not always consistent with New Zealand’s official classification regime and some CVoD providers choose not to participate in this 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. We want to make sure New Zealand has a system in place that is recognisable and understood by viewers.”

The Minister said that the reaction to the show ‘13 Reasons Why’ was an example of this issue and the public concern around it that a new, standardised classifications system would address.

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

The Chief Censor has started exploring self-classification options and tools with industry. This would allow content providers to gain official New Zealand classifications without a lengthy submission process.

Self-classification is one of the proposed options in the consultation document. Consultation closes on 26 May and the document is available and submissions can be made at:


Contact: Richard Ninness 021 892 536


Notes for editors

Will this mean any loss of access to content?

The proposals are regarding classification, not censorship. The aim is to better inform users of CVoD content, not to prevent the supply of such content. Access to content would not be lost unless it met the definition of objectionable material under current law.

Is this going to increase costs for consumers of CVoD services?

As part of the consultation, industry is asked to provide their feedback around this question. At this time officials have not seen evidence to suggest that this will be the case.

Are sites such as YouTube going to be regulated under this reform?

Services that require payment from its customers are the focus of this consultation. This means that sites containing content that is created by users of that service (user-generated content) are not considered. However, YouTube’s movie rental service, will be considered.