Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Modernising censorship

Broadcasting Minister Amy Adams will be reviewing New Zealand's censorship legislation.

The NBR reports (gated) on the state of play. They rightly note that the legislation makes it very difficult for would-be NZ streaming options: while the NZ services have to get content certified here, those of us using Hola to get US-Netflix bypass the mess. 

Paddy Buckley, managing director of NZ's Quickflix, has a pretty reasonable take, suggesting self-classification with some public oversight body. 

I still think the simplest model would have content providers be able to use any existing US, UK, Canadian rating, along with a note saying which jurisdiction's rating it was using. For NZ-produced content without a foreign rating, self-classification subject to oversight, followed potentially instead by adoption of a foreign rating when one became available, should work fine.

The only real role that should be left for a NZ Censor's office is deciding what counts as kiddie-porn for arresting-people purposes. That too should be defined just a bit more strictly: that Japanese comic books can count seems just a bit too broad. Child pornography should be banned because there is an actual victim who is, in a way, hurt again when that material is re-distributed. When it's just drawings, well, that's not the same thing. 

In that proposed world, instead of having a Censor's Office, there'd be one person, on contract, who could make a quick call - on police request - to determine whether or not something is kiddie-porn. 

The Chief and Deputy Chief Censors of Film and Literature are appointed by the Governor-General by Order in Council made on the recommendation of the Minister of Internal Affairs acting with the concurrence of the Minister of Women’s Affairs and the Minister of Justice. The Chief Censor is Chief Executive.

The Chief Censor and Deputy Chief Censor form the Board of the Office.

The Chief Censor is responsible for the overall administration of the Classification Office, and for the allocation of spheres of responsibility and delegation of powers within the Office.

The Information and Policy Manager is responsible for the Information Unit, including its research, information, complaints and library services.

The Corporate Services Manager is responsible for human resources, administrative and technical support, IT, and finance. The Corporate Services Manager is also the Chief Financial Officer.

The Senior Classification Officers each supervise a team of Classification Officers.

The Chief Censor, Deputy Chief Censor, Information and Policy Manager and Corporate Services Manager form the Office’s Management team.
The Censor's Office costs the government about $2 million per year. But the cost to our freedom in having t-shirts banned, in maintaining a stock of prohibited texts going back to the 60s when homosexuality was de jure obscene, in taking a crazily broad definition of objectionablein abolishing parental discretionin having a potential end-run around legal parallel importation of digital content, in inflicting ridiculous costs on distributors of small-market films, in messing up NZ digital delivery services, in blocking parallel importin making art exhibits difficult and dangerous, that's a bit higher than $2 million per year. And the review office to which decisions can be appealed is, if anything, even worse.

1 comment:

  1. Alternate hypothesis: Showing how tough they are on this is way easier than credibly tackling match fixing.
    As for the police, well they probably think it's a mistake that this isn't illegal.