Censorship Stats

November 12th, 2006 at 3:08 pm by David Farrar

Dean Knight has some useful stats on appeals against decisions on publications by the chief censor.

Now the current Chief Censor, Bill Hastings, is regularly attacked by the SPCS and NZ First for his rulings. In fact barely a week goes by where they don’t call for him to be sacked.

So what does Dean find out. Bill Hastings has had 57 of his decisions appealed against. In only 2 cases has the Film and Literature Board of Review raised his original rating. So he was too “liberal” is only 3.5% of cases. Incidentally they lowered his rating in eight appeals, so he has generally found to be erring on the conservative side, if at all. And 82% of his decisions are upheld.

Now the previous censor only had 36% of her decisions upheld. She was found to be liberal in 27% of her cases, compared to 3.5% for Hastings.

I’ve long suspected opposition to Hastings is motivated to a fair degree by the fact he is gay. Certainly the appeal statistics suggest he is doing an excellent job in correctly interpreting the law, and it is a shame he has to put up with so much personal vilification for just doing his job.

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16 Responses to “Censorship Stats”

  1. cammo () says:

    Bill hasting sexuality is an issue because he classifies hardcore gay pornography yet declines strait hardcore films of a similar nature.It seems to be a double standard.

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  2. Porcupine () says:

    Do we have a right of appeal if we get censored from a blog?

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  3. Graeme Edgeler () says:

    Porcupine – unlikely at present but potentially – if you remember, few people thought Peter Dunne and Jim Anderton had an ‘appeal’ from TV3’s decision to ban them from their debate show during the last election, and they managed it.

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  4. xy () says:

    There was a good interview with him in the Press a few weeks ago – the key thing he was talking about was that there really isn’t much discretion involved in the role. Classification was a largely mechanical process based on the relevant laws.

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  5. xy () says:

    There was a good interview with him in the Press a few weeks ago – the key thing he was talking about was that there really isn’t much discretion involved in the role. Classification was a largely mechanical process based on the relevant laws.

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  6. Graham Miller () says:

    Graeme:

    if you remember, few people thought Peter Dunne and Jim Anderton had an ‘appeal’ from TV3’s decision to ban them from their debate show during the last election, and they managed it.

    If we take the TV3 precedent at face value, without debating the legal merits, then I think it is more of a “public interest” case than blog censorship might be. IIRC, Justice Ron Young focused on the potential significance of a televised election debate on voting behaviour. I’m not sure that rapid-fire comments from bloggers, or those who contribute to blogs, would fall into that category. It would surely be an extraordinary extension of public law principles.

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  7. David Farrar () says:

    cammo – if that was the case (and it soudns like an unfounded alleagtion to me) then I would expect an appeal. The fact so few appeals are upheld suggests he is not being at all inconsistent.

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  8. Graeme Edgeler () says:

    Graham – it would be an extraordinary extension of the law, but then some people thought Dunne v TV3 was that. It’s incredibly unlikely, however if a ‘blog got so big and influential that it had the potential to change an election then arguably the courts could step in if someone was being unfair. When you undertake a public function (which such a ‘blog arguably would be) then you have obligations under public law.

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  9. Graham Miller () says:

    Graeme = I think we’re broadly on the same page.

    The issue of whether (and when) a private company assumes public law obligations will presumably depend on the facts of a particular case and, in particular, on the nature of the activity and its potential impact on the voting public. A sliding scale of private v public, if you will.

    So, in the case of a blog, the court would effectively have to decide whether it is sufficiently influential (in the public eye) in order to justify applying the same principle. I somehow doubt that any court would relish taking on that task. Then again, as internet defamation cases have shown, there is nothing unique about the internet in the eyes of the law.

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  10. Craig Ranapia () says:

    XY wrote:
    There was a good interview with him in the Press a few weeks ago – the key thing he was talking about was that there really isn’t much discretion involved in the role. Classification was a largely mechanical process based on the relevant laws.

    Well, that’s the real issue here isn’t it because if there’s a more vague and subjective notion than “injurious to the public good” I don’t know what it is. That’s not Hasting’s problem – after his job is to apply relevant legislation as it stands, not make it up as he goes along. OTOH, you don’t have to be a Puritan loony to wonder if the extremely graphic sexual violence in films like Base Moi and Irreversible would have been quite so sympathetically received by liberal opinion if they’d been big-budget releases from American studios rather than ‘arthouse’/festival productions. I do have to wonder if there’s a certain amount of cultural/class assumptions in our censorship law – violent sex criminals don’t go the subtitled films, art galleries, or the theatre do they?

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  11. Jen Campbell () says:

    Bill Hastings is hugely respected by the computer game industry. He has managed to keep up to date with current technology and trends, and has always proved himself to be a reasonable, and balanced censor.
    I don’t envy the man his job, but he fulfills his duties admirably.

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  12. ross () says:

    “if there’s a more vague and subjective notion than ‘injurious to the public good’ I don’t know what it is”.

    It seems to me to be a pretty straight-forward idea. Are people who watch pornographic films, for example, likely to be so affected that they will want to imitate what they’ve seen? Well, yes, in some cases. But having sex is not illegal, so that problem is resolved as regards explicit sex films. As for violent sex, I haven’t seen the two movies you refer to, but context is everything. Two films about sexual violence could be poles apart. One could be exploitative and gratuitous; the other not. Hollywood films exist to make money. Art films? Maybe not.

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  13. Andrew Bannister () says:

    I always got the impression that Bill Hastings was extremely reasonable and did his job extremely well. People are ALWAYS going to disagree with the Chief Censor. I honestly don’t know if we can do much better than him, and would not want to try and find out until absolutely necessary.

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