March 20, 2020

Regulating Tech in 2020 Series | Classifying content on ‘Video On-Demand’ services

Just to recap, we’re halfway through our run-down of some big items on the tech regulation agenda in Aotearoa this year, which include:  

  1. “Modernising” the Privacy Act
  1. New Zealand’s ‘Consumer Data Right’?  
  1. Preventing Violent Extremist Content Online  
  1. Classifying Content on “Video On-Demand” Services  
  1. Big Changes Ahead for Copyright Law  
  1. Unfair Contract Terms in B2B Contracts  

The focus for this article is on Classifying Content on “Video On-Demand” Services

To reduce the potential for harm to consumers from viewing inappropriate content, the Government will require providers of commercial video on-demand (CVoD) content available in New Zealand to display appropriate and consistent labelling.  The catchily-named Films, Videos, and Publications Classification (Commercial Video on-Demand) Amendment Bill was introduced late last year. If passed, it will require CVoD providers either to:

  • follow the current process for the labelling of a film. This involves providing content to the Film and Video Labelling Body for rating and labelling (the Labelling Body will sometimes refer content to the Office of Film and Literature Classification for classification before issuing a label); or
  • ‘self-rate’ their content using systems that have been approved by the Classification Office – either by using the Classification Office’s rating tool or using their own system (if the Classification Office approves it).

The law would replace the current voluntary self-classification code administered by the industry-led Media Council.  

CVoD providers caught by the law would include the major global players such as Netflix, Google, Disney, Amazon and Apple – and local players like Sky and Lightbox. Many of them have raised the potential cost of compliance with the classification scheme as compared to the relatively small market size in New Zealand – and the possibility that CVoD services may simply be removed from New Zealand as a consequence.  

With this political backdrop, it will be interesting to follow the progress of the Bill this year. It may be that the Media Council CVoD code continues to play a role (in some form) as an approved system under the new regime.

Providers will be required to display appropriate and consistent labels.

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