Video on-demand services (like Netflix, Neon and Lightbox) currently fall outside of New Zealand’s classification and broadcasting laws, and are not properly addressed. 

That is about to change.

The Government has recently announced that New Zealand’s law will be updated to require commercial video on-demand providers to show the same classifications and consumer warnings as those currently seen on films and DVDs.

An amendment bill is expected to land in late November. Here is what we know so far:

  • Compliance will be mandatory and will apply to services that require payment from customers. 
  • Content must have a classification before it can be made available in New Zealand.
  • Free services and user-generated content are not expected to be covered at this stage.
  • Providers will be able to self-classify content by using a rating tool being developed by the Chief Censor or by using their own systems accredited by the Classification Office.
  • The Classification Office will approve and enforce the classifications, and the Film and Literature Board of Review can review decisions made (which reflects the current process for films and DVDs).

The aim is to standardise classifications for video on-demand content and to align the requirements with the current regime for traditional films and DVDs. The ability to self-classify should also allow content providers to meet the standards without significantly delaying access to content.

While the changes will take time to implement, they demonstrate a real willingness of the Government to update New Zealand’s media laws to reflect modern media consumption and to close the current legislative gaps. 

To get a head start, we recommend that video-on demand providers use the voluntary self-classification scheme currently provided by the New Zealand Media Council or begin internally assigning content classifications that reflect those prescribed under New Zealand law.

Lisa is a Senior Solicitor at Hudson Gavin Martin specialising in technology, media and telecommunications. You can contact her at lisa.paz@hgmlegal.com