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AO and PGR classifications for free-to-air television programmes being replaced with new labels

Kiwi audiences will soon bid farewell to the decades-old PGR and AO labels used in media with the Broadcasting Standards Authority announcing this morning changes to free-to-air television timebands and classifcation labels.

Television generic Source: istock.com

The BSA today announced the results of a review of timebands and classifications on free-to-air television, which it says included community research and extensive public consultation.

The review found New Zealanders strongly supported a shift away from the traditional FTA labels towards the G, PG, M, 16 and 18 labels seen on pay television.

BSA chair Judge Bill Hastings says the change will take place in early May later this year and is a sign of the changing landscape television is undergoing.

"Television viewing habits and technology have changed dramatically since the timebands and classifications were introduced in 1989," Mr Hastings said.

"Viewers are increasingly accustomed to using time-shifting technology to watch content at a time that suits them. Importantly, parental locks are now available on all FTA enabled televisions, which allows viewers to manage television content in their homes.

"Audiences told us they wanted more guidance from classifications, particularly to break down the ‘AO’ rating into age guides for mature content, so the choices are clearer."

One area of free-to-air television that will remain the same though is the 8:30pm watershed which the BSA says saw an "overwhelming majority" support.

File image of a kid watching TV. Source: Breakfast

“Even though New Zealanders are watching more “on demand” content, there is still very strong support for the 8.30pm watershed on FTA television," Mr Hastings said.

"Our consultation found that the 8.30pm watershed continues to be used as a guide for many Kiwis, especially parents and caregivers, on what is suitable viewing for children on FTA television.

"This timeband still has an important role to play in protecting children and young people from harm in the FTA television environment."

Specifically, G and PG content can be played at any time. M content may be aired between 9am and 3pm, except for on school and public holidays, and after 7.30pm until 5am on any day. Content classified 16 and 18 may not be played during the day. Content classified 16 content may only be broadcast after 8.30pm and content classified 18 may only be broadcast after 9.30pm.

To support the changes, additional safeguards are also being introduced to reduce the potential for harm to viewers with classification labels displayed more frequently during programmes, and more information provided in programme guides to help viewers make informed decisions about what they watch.