ALRC Discussion Paper proposes fundamental reform of the classification system

“In an age of media convergence, Australia needs a 21st century classification system that is more platform-neutral, concentrates government regulation on media content of most concern to the community, and a system that can be adapted to accelerated media innovation,” said Professor Terry Flew, Commissioner in charge of the National Classification Scheme Review.

“The goals of classification in balancing individual rights with community standards and protection of children remain vitally important, but we need a new framework that minimises costs and regulatory burden, and does not penalise Australian digital content industries in a hyper-competitive global media environment.”

Drawing on over 2,400 submissions responding to its May Issues Paper, the Australian Law Reform Commission found that the existing classification framework is fragmented, approaches content inconsistently across media platforms, and is confusing for industry and the wider community.

The ALRC today released the National Classification Scheme Review Discussion Paper (ALRC DP 77) that puts forward 43 proposals for reform on which it is seeking public input. These proposals focus on the introduction of a new Classification of Media Content Act covering classification on all media platforms—online, offline and television. The ALRC proposes what media content should continue to be classified, who should classify it, and who should have responsibility for enforcement.

The proposed new framework envisages:

  • a greater role for industry in classifying content—allowing government regulators to focus on the content that generates the most community concern, and ensure access to adult content is properly restricted;
  • content will be classified using the same categories, guidelines and markings whether viewed on television, at the cinema, on DVD or online;
  • changes to classification categories, with age references—PG 8+ and T 13+ (Teen)—to help parents choose content for their children; and
  • the Commonwealth taking on full responsibility for administering and enforcing the new scheme.

ALRC President Professor Rosalind Croucher said, “The ALRC has heard loud and clear that the current system is broken and no longer fits with how people are consuming media content. It is poorly equipped to deal with the challenges of media convergence, and the case for reform is strong. The ALRC is proposing reform that can be phased in to allow time for industry and the community to adapt to the new scheme. Responses to the Discussion Paper will help inform the development of final recommendations for reform”.

The Discussion Paper and Discussion Paper Summary are available on the ALRC website. The ALRC encourages submissions from the public. For information about making submissions visit the ALRC website.

Closing date for submissions is 18 November 2011.

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