Do you have any comments about these draft principles for reform generally? Are there any others you think should be included?
Free TV would like to make some observations regarding the current processes for training and accreditation of classifiers.
We note that the Classification Board conducts an intensive three-month program which includes mentorship and practical experience. In comparison, the training programs for certified industry assessors are very brief (half-day or one-day). Anecdotal evidence suggests that this contributes to inconsistencies in classification decision-making, undermining the effectiveness and integrity of the National Classification Scheme.
The ALRC should consider recommending changes to the accreditation process to include consistent and rigorous training requirements, with classifiers required to undergo minimum periods of supervision following training.
Commercial free-to-air television broadcasters employ a number of full-time dedicated classifiers, many of whom have years of experience working in the industry and organisations such as the Classification Board.
Suggested new Principle 9: The classification framework should require a consistent standard in relation to training and accreditation of classifiers.
Ok, first thing we need to do here is have a look at the differences between classification and censorship. Most people conflate them, as you have done and, unfortunately, that conflation is currently enshrined in our regulatory system.
Classification is taxonomy, metadata. That's it. It is information about information. In the act of classification, you determine what the properties of something are and how it is related to other things, thereby identifying it and grouping it with other, similar things. When you classify a book using the Dewey Decimal System, for example, you determine what subject the book is and then assign a call number to it that reflects that subject matter as much as possible, a call number which may well be shared with thousands of other books.
If classification is the creation and application of metadata, then censorship is use of that metadata by a third party to impose restrictions on the access or other use of the item(s) defined by that metadata.
In Australia, the film, print, video game and internet classification schemes are actually hybrid classification schemes. To take the example of the film scheme (used for everything listed above but print, the G through to M15+ categories are classification categories. They exist purely to inform about the nature of the content. The MA15+ and beyond categories, however, are censorship categories. That is because their purpose is not to inform, but to restrict access. This is direct censorship.
Indirect censorship is, in part, why we see, for example, so few 'banned' video games. Indirect censorship is the chilling effect, when creators are reluctant to produce or distribute works for fear of censorship, legal penalty, social stigma or all three. The material is simply never produced, or is produced elsewhere but not imported (legally, anyway), or produced and then subjected to self-imposed censored prior to entry into the Australian market. We see a lot of indirect censorship in the art community these days due to the Bill Henson affair, which artists are so affraid of being subject to another witch-hunt that they are extremely reluctrant to create works that have children in them.
A second thing that must be discussed is that Refused Classification does not, in fact, equal banned. Unless the material is illegal in and of itself - and the vast majority of material that is or is potentially RC is not - it is not illegal for most adult Australians to own it. It is, however, no legal to sell it, or screen it publically, or make it avaiable for loan or hire. Distribution is prohibited. Ownership is not.