10 November 2006

Censorship - appeal stats

Routinely you will see media releases from groups criticising the present censor and the censor's office about various decisions, either saying they're too liberal or too conservative. My own personal view is the counterveiling criticisms from conservative and liberal groups probably means the censor is doing a pretty good job! Anyway, I've obtained some details from the Office about the outcome of appeals from the censor to the Film and Literature Board of Review, which make interesting reading:
Total Number of publications reviewed:1014457
Outcome of review:
- Original rating raised:14122
- Original rating maintained:631647
- Original rating lowered:24168

It shows that the present censor, Hastings, has been found to be too liberal with classifications in only 3.5% of the appeals - in contrast to 27% for the previous censor, Paterson. And too conservative in 14% (Hastings) and 24% (Paterson) of the appeals respectively.

The success of different groups who have appealed is also interesting:

- 100% Hoyts, Nobilangelo Ceramulus Publisher, NORML, John Nicholson, Tweak Holdings Ltd, UIP - 67% Individuals / organisations with no interest in publication wanting higher rating - 50% NZ Film Festival Trust, Sony/Columbia TriStar, Video Wholesalers - 25% Vixen - 13% Society for the Promotion of Community Standards - <1%> Individuals contesting forfeiture or defending prosecutions - 0% Individuals / organisations with no interest in publication wanting lower rating, Christian Heritage Party

It's encouraging to see some certainty in the evaluation process with 83% of the classifications being upheld under Hastings' tenure. I previously criticised the lack of predictability about classification decisions, particularly the disparity between the censor's office and the Board - especially where the possession offence does not require proof of knowledge of the objectionable status or content.

> See Dean Knight, "An Objectionable Offence: A critique of the possesssion offence in the Films, (etc) Classification Act 1993" (1997) 27 VUWLR 541.

I'm also pleased to find data confirming the robustness of the present censor's decision and refuting the supurious claims made about his decisions, particularly his alleged liberalness due to his sexuality. Bill is a good friend of mine and supervised my LLB(Hons) research paper (ie the one published above). I've always found him to care deeply about the proper interpretation and application of the law, regardless of his personal perspectives.

I'm rather keen to do an update on my 1997 article - I still find the possession offence objectionable, particularly as it has been applied to objectionable publications in someone's internet cache...

1 comment:

Rich said...

I just have an objection to their *being* a censor in the first place.

The NZ censorship office has an unusually wide authority. In most countries censorship is limited to images and films. Censorship of mere text hasn't happened in the UK since the 1970s (and is pretty much unconstitutional in the US), but here the censor is able to summarily spike a student magazine for an offensive article without any trial or conviction.

Course Outline

Lord Justice Lawton in Maxwell v Department of Trade and Industry [1974] 2 All ER 122 said:

"From time to time ... lawyers and judges have tried to define what constitutes fairness. Like defining an elephant, it is not easy to do, although fairness in practice has the elephantine quality of being easy to recognise. As a result of these efforts a word in common usage has acquired the trappings of legalism: 'acting fairly' has become 'acting in accordance with the rules of natural justice', and on occasion has been dressed up with Latin tags. This phrase in my opinion serves no useful purpose and in recent years it has encouraged lawyers to try to put those who hold inquiries into legal straitjackets.... For the purposes of my judgment I intend to ask myself this simple question: did the [decision-maker] act fairly towards the plaintiff?"

This course examines the elephantine concept of fairness in the law, along with other contemporary legal issues.

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