According to stuff.co.nz, the first steps are being taken to revamp New Zealand’s censorship laws which favor some mediums and unfairly burden others because the law hasn’t kept pace with technology.
One person keen to see reform is Wellington’s Aro Video owner, Andrew Armitage. Last year, he launched an online campaign (lumiere.net.nz/censorship-reform), seeking to end what his store and others like Christchurch’s Alice in Videoland saw as “economic censorship” and laws that unfairly disadvantaged the medium of DVD.
“We are grossly over-regulated, while the competitive streams are vastly under-regulated. It’s an uneven playing field at the moment, and it means many films and television programmes are not available on DVD because the distributor cannot justify the classification costs.”
Mr Armitage isn’t bothered by the oppression caused by censorship. He simply wants everyone to be oppressed equally. His website makes this statement:
This forum is not concerned with censorship decisions that are made by the Classification Office (OFLC) in respect of a film’s content, and we are not anti-censorship. Our concerns are with what amounts to the “economic censorship” of legitimate filmed entertainment for mature audiences.
Emphasis is mine. Of course, it’s the fact that New Zealanders are comfortable with government controlled censorship that is creating the current dilemma. Technology is never going to stand still, so laws will always be outdated.
Armitage believes the anomalies are only going to get worse. “Twenty years ago, film-making was an elite sport that required a Paniflex camera and a crew of eight. Now you can pick up a (cell)phone and make a movie. All this needs to be held accountable to the same censorship regime.
Sounds like New Zealand’s classification office is going to have to do some hiring to keep up with the fact that there will soon be as many video producers as there are people. While they have now had only to focus on a narrow range of content providers, digital media has expanded the production and transport of content many times over. Censorship czars see that as an empire-building dream come true.
[New Zealand's chief censor, Bill Hastings] says he has three ideas that could “fix things pretty well”. The first is to include digital content in the definition of film.
“Second, we need to incorporate free into the definition of supply, so that everything can be consistently labelled. Right now, the legislation is triggered only when something is offered for trade, exchange or hire.
“Third, we need the ability to print digital labels. This should substantially reduce industry compliance costs, increase ease of enforcement and provide more information to the consumer.
The idea that all image content, commercial or personal, will now have to be rated is mind numbing and the fact that citizens aren’t outraged at the prospect is stunning.
Until I created this website, I was ignorant of just how accustomed citizens of western democracies have become to government regulated expression and communication. Countries that proudly call themselves “free” don’t bat an eyelash that government now routinely criminalizes some ideas and materials, not because they are subversive, but simply because they fall outside the rigid confines that they have declared to be culturally acceptable.
As H.L. Mencken said: “Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.”