New Zealand Law Society - Changes to free-to-air TV classification labels

Changes to free-to-air TV classification labels

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The familiar PGR and AO labels on free-to-air (FTA) television are being dumped and will be replaced by G, PG, M, 16 and 18 labels.

The Broadcasting Standards Authority (BSA) says this will make it easier for television audiences to protect themselves and children from unsuitable content.

Alongside the change, the Authority has announced the results of its review of timebands and classifications on free-to-air television, which included community research and extensive public consultation. It found New Zealanders strongly supported a shift away from the traditional FTA labels, towards the G, PG, M, 16 and 18 labels seen on pay television.

The move is set to take effect in early May 2020. However, the 8.30pm watershed for risqué material is to be retained.

The BSA says the overwhelming majority of respondents to its review wanted to keep the 8.30pm watershed.

“Television viewing habits and technology have changed dramatically since the timebands and classifications were introduced in 1989,” says BSA Chair, Judge Bill Hastings.

“Viewers are increasingly accustomed to using time-shifting technology to watch content at a time that suits them.  Importantly, parental locks are now available on all FTA-enabled televisions, which allows viewers to manage television content in their homes.

“Audiences told us they wanted more guidance from classifications, particularly to break down the ‘AO’ rating into age guides for mature content, so the choices are clearer.”

The consultation also indicated that there was limited awareness about the restrictions on playing PGR content at different times of the day.  Under the new rules PGR content will be able to be played throughout the day.

The new classification labels have the following meanings:

G – General: Approved for general viewing

PG – Parental Guidance: Parental guidance recommended for younger viewers

M – Mature Audiences: Suitable for mature audiences 16 years and over

16 – People under 16 years should not view

18 – People under 18 years should not view

The new timebands are:

G programmes may be screened at any time

PG programmes may be screened at any time

M programmes may be screened between 9am and 3pm on weekdays (except during school and public holidays, as designated by the Ministry of Education) and after 7.30pm until 5am on any day

Programmes classified 16 may be screened after 8.30pm until 5am

Programmes classified 18 may be screened after 9.30pm until 5am

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