Media and online content regulation

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Safer Online Services and Media Platforms

Public consultation: Safer Online Services and Media Platforms - June 2023

Consultation is now closed on proposals to regulate online services and media platforms in New Zealand.

Submissions closed 31 July 2023, NZDT

About the Safer Online Services and Media Platforms review - April 2022

The aim of the Review is to design and implement a new approach to content regulation that minimises the risk of harms caused by content to New Zealanders

The updated regulatory system will be:

  • Modern – able to respond to the types of harm caused by the wide variety of content and content platforms we interact with in 2022;
  • Flexible – adaptive to emerging technologies, any new content platforms and future shifts in societal values or expectations; and
  • Simple – easier for users to navigate if they have a content-related concern; for content creators and providers to comply with; and for regulators to regulate.

As well as protecting New Zealanders from harm, the Review will ensure any new system upholds New Zealanders’ rights to freedom of expression, preserves the freedom of the press, and is consistent with Te Tiriti o Waitangi principles.

Why do we need this review? 

The ongoing evolution of digital media and the rise of new content platforms has resulted in a significant increase of potential for New Zealanders to be exposed to harmful content.

This was made evident by the livestreaming and virality of the Christchurch terror attack video.

Current content regulations were designed around traditional ideas of content - ‘analogue publications’ such as books, magazines and free-to-air TV.

This means current regulations don’t have the flexibility to respond to the many types of content we interact with today, including the many different types of content and platforms available online.

The increase in the potential for New Zealanders to be exposed to harmful content is made more challenging by the complex nature of New Zealand’s current content regulations.

Currently, within our current regulations, different ‘rules’ apply for content on different platforms. For example: content that is broadcasted on television has different regulations than content published in books, magazines, and newspapers.

This increases the difficulty for New Zealanders when deciding what content is appropriate for themselves and for their whānau.

The current ‘mixed-model’ approach also creates confusion for New Zealanders about where to go to report harmful content. 

About the current content regulatory system

New Zealand’s current system for reducing the risk of harm from content comprises:

  • the Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act 1993, and
  • the Broadcasting Act 1989,
  • as well as voluntary self-regulation (including the New Zealand Media Council and Advertising Standards Authority).

The Office of Film and Literature Classification and the Broadcasting Standards Authority are statutory regulators under their respective regimes.

New Zealand’s content regulatory system seeks to prevent harm from exposure to damaging or illegal content. It does this through a combination of classifications and ratings to provide consumer information, and standards to reflect community values. These tools are designed to prevent harm from people viewing unwanted or unsuitable content, while protecting freedom of expression. 

The Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act 1993 is administrated by the Department and was designed to provide a framework for classifying films, videos, and publications, and to clearly label and in some cases restrict the availability of harmful content. It is most familiar to the public from labels on films in cinemas and on DVD cases. This Act allowed the Christchurch terrorist attack video to be classified as objectionable, making it illegal to hold and distribute. 

The Broadcasting Act 1989 is administrated by the Ministry for Culture and Heritage. It was designed to provide a framework that regulates content traditionally broadcast on radio and free-to-air and pay television. It also covers certain content that is live-streamed through the internet. For example, the legislation covers the 6pm news when viewed as a television broadcast or viewed through the Television New Zealand website, but not when it is access through an on-demand service.

You can contact the Department for further information on the review at

Review documents

Cabinet material and key advice papers relating to the release of the discussion document on modernising the regulatory framework for media and online content in Aotearoa New Zealand has been proactively released, below:

The Cabinet paper, its associated minutes and supporting information briefings to initiate the Content Regulatory System Review have been released, below:

Note, that the briefing The Department’s recommended approach to a review of the content regulatory system reflects the Department’s independent early thinking and that there are no plans for two separate reviews.

Report: International Regulatory Frameworks for Online Content

DIA commissioned Associate Professor Peter A. Thompson and Senior lecturer Michael S. Daubs from the Media and Communication programme at Victoria University of Wellington | Te Herenga Waka to undertake a research study on current international developments to regulate harmful content. The timeframe of analysis for this research report was July 2021-November 2021.

Report: International Regulatory Frameworks for Online Content [PDF, 2.8MB]

Executive Digest: International Regulatory Frameworks for Online Content  [PDF, 600KB]

Report: Mapping Media Content Harms

DIA commissioned Professor Miriam Lips and Dr Elizabeth Eppel at Victoria University of Wellington | Te Herenga Waka to undertake a research study to provide a deeper evidence-backed understanding of the harm experienced by New Zealanders related to content. They were also asked to develop a conceptual framework to inform the Content Regulatory Review. The timeframe of analysis for this research report was June 2021- September 2022.

Report: Mapping Media Content Harms [PDF, 1MB]

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