Claire Trevett

Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor.

Watchdog 'economic censorship' risk for Kiwis

The chief censor says the number of DVDs, films and games coming into New Zealand has dropped in the economic downturn.  Photo / Thinkstock
The chief censor says the number of DVDs, films and games coming into New Zealand has dropped in the economic downturn. Photo / Thinkstock

The chief censor says the number of DVDs, films and games coming into New Zealand has dropped in the economic downturn, leading to concerns Kiwis were missing out because it was becoming harder to make a profit.

Chief censor Andrew Jack said the drop in items coming to New Zealand was a concern because it meant less choice.

He said it indicated distributors were bringing in a narrower range of products than before, probably because of the downturn.

"If you're in the business of bringing in or distributing DVDs, when times are good you can probably afford to take a bit of a punt in bringing in those which might just break even.

"But when times get tighter and you look at your margins a bit more closely, you may think 'well if this is only going to sell 150 copies, perhaps it's not worth bringing it in'.

"That's a concern. We want to see New Zealanders enjoying as wide a range of products such as movies and DVDs as possible."

The problem was set out in the statement of intent for the Office of Film and Literature Classification, which classifies any material intended for sale or hire in New Zealand.

The statement said the office was increasingly being asked to provide discounts or fee waivers as the market became increasingly price sensitive.

It warned there was a risk that distributors would stop importing products because of the difficulty in making a profit, "creating a situation of economic censorship".

Dr Jack has proposed changing the flat $1124 fee his office charged to classify material so that it was cheaper for products which were less likely to make a profit.

"A big box office blockbuster that makes millions of dollars incurs the same classification fee as, for example, a film festival film which might have a much more limited audience and barely covers the cost of distribution. I think that's a fair criticism."

He said it was difficult to tell what the exact drop-off was, partly because material that had already been classified in Australia or Britain did not need to be re-classified unless it was rated for viewers aged over 15.

But the number of commercial items classified had dropped from 2276 in 2009/10 to an estimated maximum of 1822 in the 2011/12 year, and possibly as low as 1329.

- NZ Herald

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