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Tax Payers Subsidise Porn via Censor’s Office

22 September 2006

Report: Tax Payers Subsidise Porn via Censor’s Office

Taxpayers are currently subsidising the examination, classification and registration of hundreds of sleazy hardcore porn videos every year and the Society wants this to stop and for the porn industry and distributors to cover ALL the costs involved. Deputy Chief Censor, Ms Nicola McCully “estimates that about 80% of her team’s work is classifying the kind of sexually explicit DVDs that will end up in sex shops and the “adult” sections of video stores from North Cape to Bluff.”

She says that censors “might have six hours of sex DVDs to classify, and have to watch them from beginning to end. There’s no fast forwarding … The misogyny in these sex tapes is very depressing.” (Sunday Star Times 13/08/06, pp. 5-6). Of the 1,497 publications classified in 2004/05, 1,097 were videos or DVDs. Most of these fit this porn sleaze category. The classification fees ($1100 per DVD and $1000 per VHS video) paid by those like NZ’s Porn King, Steve Crow, who produce and market this sleaze, falls far short of covering the real costs of classification involved which are met by the NZ taxpayer.

The Society has called on the Minister of Internal Affairs, the Hon. Rick Barker, to replace the Chief Censor, Bill Hastings, who has had the soul-destroying job of viewing this sort of material along with paedophilia and explicit sexual violence (e.g. Baise-Moi) for too long (he was appointed Chief Censor in 1999 and his second three year contract runs out on the 18th of October 2006). It also wants him and his deputy McCully replaced, arguing that there is clear evidence that they have become “desensitised to the corrosive and toxic effects of hard core porn through over-exposure to this and other objectionable content that degrades, demeans and dehumanises women.”

This desensitisation is evident in many of the classification decisions they have sanctioned allowing all manner of explicit and sexually degrading material, combined with graphic violence, into our cinemas and home entertainment DVD/video market. McCully described the porn sleaze she and her team of 15 censors spend hours watching, checking and rewatching, “soul-destroying crap” (SST 10/08/06). The Society agrees! It does not believe that tax-payers should subsidise the exploitative hard core porn industry championed by the likes of Steve Crow, that is so damaging to the public good. It believes that the majority of New Zealanders would be horrified to know that their hard-earned tax money is being used to subsidise and promote hard-core porn.
Detailed Analysis of Tax payer funding of Chief Censor’s Office

According to the 2005 Annual Report of the Office of Film and Literature Classification (OFLC) a total of 2,256 publications were received for classification in the year 2004/05 [Table 2, p. 34 and p. 68]. Of these 2,136 were actually examined [Table 3, p. 36 and p. 68], but classification decisions were registered for only 1,468 in the reporting year [p. 41]. The question arises: what are the 668 publications which were examined but for which no formal classification decision is issued? The answer can be found in Figure 11 of the Annual Report that shows that of the 2,256 publications received, 706 (33%) were poster advertising slicks which only take a few seconds at most to approve or disapprove and categorise in terms of display condition options. A formal classification decision is not required to be written for slicks. For a junior censor it would take less than a day’s work to assess the 706 slicks, while in contrast, a standard DVD, film or video would take somewhere between one to three hours just to watch and each one has to be watched in its entirety.

The minimal time input in assessing advertising slicks, for which 43% were approved with no conditions attached, suggests that the vast bulk of the censor’s time involves examining, classifying and registering the decisions related to six other publication categories: DVDs (692; 32%), Videos (405; 19%), Individual Computer Files and Printouts (176; 8%), films (71; 3%), digital games (71: 3%) and books (43; 2%) [Fig. 11, p. 38].

However, one of these categories – “Individual Computer Files and Printouts” – shares much in common with that of advertising slicks as it involves static images that can be assessed very quickly compared to a DVD, film or video. However, because classification decisions need to be written up and registered for each image, the time taken to complete the process would take longer than approving an advertising slick.

In a recent report in The Sunday Star Times (8 Aug 2006) The Deputy Chief Censor, Ms Nicola McCully, “estimates that about 80% of her team’s work is classifying the kind of sexually explicit DVDs that will end up in sex shops and the “adult” sections of video stores from North Cape to Bluff…. In addition to [her] and chief censor Bill Hastings there are 15 classification officers who assist in classifying incoming publications.”

Given this revelation as to what Ms McCully and her team of 15 censors spend 80% of their time doing, is it is not reasonable to ask: How much of it is funded for by tax-payers as opposed to funded by those in the hard core porn industry who apply to have sex publications classified so they can distribute them? To answer this question consider the following…

For the year ended 30 June 2005 the OFLC received Crown Revenue of $1,337,706 (i.e. taxpayer funding) for the "examination, classification and registration of publications" received that year (defined as "Output 1" in the Annual Report). However, note that Crown Revenue was but one of the sources of funding enabling Output 1 to be achieved.

If we assume that all Crown Revenue funding was consumed in order to achieve Output 1, and ignore other sources of funding; then to provide an estimate of the average cost to the taxpayer of having each of the 1,468 publications classified, we divide Crown Revenue by 1,468. This gives a unit cost of $911.24 to the taxpayer per publication. However, because there was a surplus of revenue over expenditure of $141,466 in relation to Output 1 [p. 67] the total revenue and expenditure needs to be examined.

Additional revenue to Crown Revenue to fund the delivery of Output 1 was received by the OFLC in 2004/05. $975,311 was received from “Third Party Revenue” (fees paid by those submitting publications for classification) and $160,039 was received from “Other” sources “Including Interest”: a Total additional revenue of $1,135,350 over and above Crown Revenue [p. 67].

If we divide the total expenditure by the OFLC to achieve Output 1 ($2,331,590) by 1,468 we find that the expenditure per publication is $1,588.30 per year.

When we take account of the fact that a person submitting a DVD or video for classification pays a fee of $1,100 and $1,000 respectively, and that the Crown’s contribution was $1,337,706 to achieve Output 1 in 2004/05, it should be obvious that the Crown is heavily subsidising the exercise. Taxpayers are heavily subsidising every porn distributor who submits a publication for classification. The fee such a person pays covers only a proportion of the true cost to the taxpayer involved in getting the publication classified.

The Society asks: Why taxpayers should be funding to the level they are, a classification process focused predominantly on clearing adult sex DVDs and videos for the home ‘entertainment’ market; material that degrades, demeans and dehumanises women and sometimes even contain gratuitous and explicit depictions of sexual violence and torture? It is also asking why the Chief Censor Bill Hastings is receiving an annual remuneration (plus benefits) of between $180,000 and $190,000 and his deputy in the range of $140,000 and $150,000 to fulfil this role [Note 9, p. 66]. Few taxpayers would be aware of the extent that they are aiding and abetting sex sleaze industry via their financial support for Mr Hastings and Ms McCully and their 15 censors. The Society believes it is time for both Hastings and McCully to be replaced.

The millions of dollars used to subsidise the sex sleaze industry would be better used to shorten hospital waiting lists. Quite a few hip-replacements could be done with the money lavished on hard core porn promoters.

In addition to the Crown Revenue the OFLC receives annually for funding its censorship tasks (Output 1) it also receives Crown Revenue funding its Information Services (Output 2). In 2004/05 it received $622,294 for the latter and ended up spending $539,158 leaving it with a surplus of $83,136. It funded one planned research project focused on “Users of Sexually explicit material” expanding the research on the same topic carried out in 2003/04. The annual Report explained the “primary purpose of the research” as follows:

“The Office receives more sexually explicit publications for classification than any other type of publication. Staff expressed interest in knowing more about the viewing habits of the audience for the material they classify. The Office was interested in the circumstances under which viewers watch the material, who they view it with and their reasons for selecting the material they do. Following on from the pilot study on the same subject in 2003/2004 the research aimed to enlarge the sample by gathering data from a different region of New Zealand” [Emphasis added].

The OFLC gathered its self-selecting sample of porn viewing participants by leaving invitations for video/DVD customers in the adult sections of video rental businesses where porn is on display. So keen is the OFLC to hear the views of such participants, it regularly offers a “koha” to make the task of self-disclosure attractive to porn viewers.

In contrast, for over six years, the Chief Censor, Bill Hastings, and his Deputy Nicola McCully, have refused to meet with executive members of the Society to discuss the very real concerns they have over the brutal sexual violence and degrading sexual material that fill the hundreds of videos and DVDs these censors regularly clear for adult consumption each year.


The Annual Report 2005. Office of Film and Literature Classification. For the year ended 30 June 2005.

“Watching the Defectives” by Grant Smithies. Sunday Star Times (13 August 2006, pp. 5-6).


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