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Role Of Censorship In New Zealand Changing

The Office of Film and Literature Classification's 1998/99 Annual Report was released today. The report shows a 50% increase in the number of publications submitted for classification by Courts and enforcement agencies in the last financial year.

According to Chief Censor Bill Hastings "the fact that the Office's decisions could result in prosecution, fines or even imprisonment, highlights the importance of the Office's work". He goes on to say "these figures reflect the increasingly quasi- judicial role of censorship in New Zealand, replacing the more traditional pre-release film censoring model".

Of the 1170 publications classified by the Office over the 1998/99 year, 24% were banned. Nearly half of those banned publications were obtained by means of computer, and consisted of computer image files, computer printouts and e-mail.

The Office's financial position also underwent significant change during 1998/99, producing a $240,000 profit in the second half of the year. This was achieved by severe expenditure reduction, the streamlining of classification procedures and an increase in commercial submission levels. "This profit has gone a long way towards reducing the deficit incurred since the Office's establishment in 1994" said Mr Hastings.

Despite its lean financial operating environment, the Office continued to support the work of film festival organisers through fee waivers to the value of $80,000. Nevertheless film festival organisers continue to criticise the Office for charging excessive fees. The Office did, however, end the subsidy of film distributors who commercially released festival films after their festival exhibition. Distributors are now required to pay the difference between the full fee and the festival discount fee for any film which later goes out on commercial release.

25 November 1999

ENDS....

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