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How appeals work

Different processes

There are several different ways that a classification decision can be changed. For instance, an appeal can be made to the Film and Literature Board of Review. An application to the Board has to be made soon after the Classification Office decision is registered, and there's a cost involved. 

In other circumstances, someone might disagree with the classification a film or game has been given overseas which has been automatically adopted here through the process of cross-rating, such as an unrestricted classification from Australia or the UK. In these cases, you can ask the Chief Censor to have the film or game examined and classified by the Classification Office using the New Zealand classification criteria.

Finally, if more than three years have passed, anyone can ask the Chief Censor for the Classification Office to reconsider a classification. Getting a classification changed

Chief Censors William Jolliffe, William Von Keisenberg, Gordon Mirams, Douglas McIntosh, Arthur Everard, Jane Wrightson, Kathryn Paterson, Bill Hastings, Dr Andrew Jack, and David Shanks
Chief Censors William Jolliffe, William Von Keisenberg, Gordon Mirams, Douglas McIntosh, Arthur Everard, Jane Wrightson, Kathryn Paterson, Bill Hastings, Dr Andrew Jack, and David Shanks

Who can reconsider classifications

Film and Literature Board of Review

The Film and Literature Board of Review examines the publication afresh and issues a new classification decision. This decision may be the same or different from the Classification Office's decision. Find out more about the Board of Review on DIA's website

High Court & Court of Appeal

Decisions of the Film and Literature Board of Review can be appealed to the High Court on a question of law. This means that you are saying that the Board has made an error in the way it has applied the classification law in its decision.

An interesting case in 2000 came about when a decision of the Classification Office was appealed to the Film and Literature Board of Review. The Board's decision was appealed to the High Court, on a question of law, and the matter was finally decided by the Court of Appeal.

In this case, two videos were imported from the United States by Living Word Distributors Limited. The videos were titled Gay Rights / Special Rights: Inside the Homosexual Agenda and AIDS: What You Haven't Been Told. The videos opposed awarding equal rights to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered individuals, and blamed homosexuality for the spread of HIV and AIDS. Find out more on the history timeline

Chief Censor

The Chief Censor can decide to 'call in' a film or game that has been classified unrestricted in the UK or Australia, and have the Classification Office classify it using New Zealand's classification criteria, which may be different to criteria used overseas.

The Chief Censor can also agree to reconsider a classification decision if more than three years has gone by, or if the film has been substantially altered since the decision, or if the Chief Censor is satisfied that there are special circumstances justifying reconsideration of a decision.

Case studies

The following examples link you to the resources section of this site where you can read case studies of appealed and 'called in' decisions in more detail.

Poster for the film 127 Hours

Case study: 127 Hours

The film's distributor, 20th Century Fox, sought a review from the Board. 20th Century Fox made a submission to the Board saying that "…the film carries a strong message that those travelling in a wild natural place must be properly prepared, and must prudently advise others in advance about where they are going. It is in the public interest that the message should be widely and graphically disseminated." Find out more

Further discussion

After reading the case study, what do you think the film's classification should be? What do you think of the 'RP' classification option the Board took in this case?

Paranormal Activity logo

Case study: Paranormal Activity

Paranormal Activity came into New Zealand with an unrestricted rating of 'M' from Australia, and the descriptive note 'contains offensive language'.

After complaints from members of the public, the Chief Censor called the film in to be classified by his Office. As a result, it is classified 'R16: contains horror scenes and offensive language'. Find out more

Further discussion

After reading the case study and thinking about how you would apply the classification criteria to this film, what classification and descriptive note would you give it?

Dead or Alive: Dimensions characters

Case study: Dead or Alive: Dimensions

In June 2011 there were a number of stories in the New Zealand media about the release of Dead or Alive: Dimensions expressing concern that it contained pornographic material unsuitable for a PG rating.

As a result, the Chief Censor called it in to be classified using New Zealand's classification criteria. Find out more

Further discussion

Read the case study and, if you can, play the game while thinking about the classification criteria. What classification would you give Dead or Alive: Dimensions, and why?

The Wild One movie poster
The Wild One was banned 5 times before being classified as R16 in 1977.

The film The Wild One, starring Marlon Brando, was rejected by the Film Censor and Appeal Board five times between 1954 and 1959. It was finally passed with an R16 certificate in November 1977. Today, the DVD is 'PG: contains violence', although the original R16 would still apply to a cinema release of the feature film.


A legal statement about who can have access to a publication. A classification can make a publication unrestricted (G, PG, M), restricted (RP or R), or objectionable (banned).
A publication is anything that can be reproduced or shown that is made up of images, representations, signs, statements or words, or a combination of any of these things. Therefore, the definition of publication is very wide. It includes things such as films, books, video games, sound recordings and computer files. It also includes texts, T-shirts and artworks.
A book of public records.
Right of Appeal
The right to ask a court or other official body to consider changing a decision that you disagree with.