Censor argues to keep a censorship office

Andrew Jack writes:

Alively, competitive entertainment industry is important for New Zealanders. Competition ensures the widest variety of entertainment and a profitable industry ensures we can continue to enjoy our favourite movies, shows and programmes into the future.

Films, DVD/Blu-ray, games and video on demand are big, highly profitable businesses pulling in $600 million in New Zealand sales each year (at a conservative estimate).

And it’s a growing industry. Despite the growth in on-demand services such as Netflix, the film and game industries are continuing to enjoy increased sales.

Compare that $600 million in sales with the cost of New Zealand’s light touch labelling and classification system, which costs the industry around $2 million a year – less than a half of 1 per cent of industry revenue – and wonder, why is the entertainment industry complaining to the Government that it pays too much for labelling and classification?

$2 million is the direct cost. There are indirect costs also such as staff time, and delays in being able to sell immediately.

Big business also complains that New Zealand’s labelling and classification of films and shows is slow. That’s also untrue. Shows arriving from overseas have been examined and classified in a matter of hours – ensuring New Zealanders can enjoy them the same day as their overseas release.

That’s good to hear, but what is the average time?

Industry submissions on the Government’s recent discussion document “Content Regulation in a Converged World” provide a chorus of complaints over any official interference in their business.

But behind the industry’s smokescreen lies a desire for bigger profits. Every time an age restriction is applied to a film or programme, the potential audience gets smaller and the potential revenue for big business is cut – through, for example, reduced ticket sales or fewer subscriptions for on-demand content.

That’s why industry are currently lobbying the Government harder than ever before to be allowed to classify their own material. No doubt the entertainment industry’s profits would be even larger if the Government grants their wish. Other industries would also love preferential treatment.

This suggests it is a binary decision between Government regulation and industry classification.

As I understand it 99% of material has already been classified in the country it is produced. If it is a country we trust such as the US, UK, Australia, Canada or the EU then why not just use their ratings? How often does a NZ rating differ from the rating of the home country?

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