The ALRC is interested in views about this principle and in particular if there are any issues that may arise with the practical application of such an approach.

The ALRC Review is seeking to develop a National Classification Scheme that is adaptable to media convergence, and does not simply seek to apply old legislation to new technologies. In this light, we have understood that the focus of the National Classification Scheme should be on media content rather than delivery platforms. 

A majority of submissions received by the ALRC argued for the principle of platform neutrality, and that the National Classification Scheme as it is currently operating is not based upon such a principle, which generates considerable problems in its application.

The most conspicuous case of a lack of platform neutrality in the National Classification Scheme has been the absence of an R18+ classification for computer games, treating them differently to other media such as films and DVDs. A very large number of the public submissions received in response to the ALRC Issues Paper were concerned to see this anomaly redressed. At the July 2011 meeting of the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General, there was in-principle agreement to introduce an R 18+ classification for computer games based on new classification guidelines for computer games. Draft guidelines were considered by Ministers at their meeting, however these are now being further amended in advance of new legislation being introduced to parliament.

The ALRC Review is seeking to develop a National Classification Scheme that is adaptable to media convergence, and does not simply seek to apply old legislation to new technologies. In this light, we have understood that the focus of the National Classification Scheme should be on media content rather than delivery platforms. 

A majority of submissions received by the ALRC argued for the principle of platform neutrality, and that the National Classification Scheme as it is currently operating is not based upon such a principle, which generates considerable problems in its application.

The most conspicuous case of a lack of platform neutrality in the National Classification Scheme has been the absence of an R18+ classification for computer games, treating them differently to other media such as films and DVDs. A very large number of the public submissions received in response to the ALRC Issues Paper were concerned to see this anomaly redressed. At the July 2011 meeting of the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General, there was in-principle agreement to introduce an R 18+ classification for computer games based on new classification guidelines for computer games. Draft guidelines were considered by Ministers at their meeting, however these are now being further amended in advance of new legislation being introduced to parliament.

Inquiry: 

Comments (10)

Free TV supports a platform-and technology-neutral approach to classification regulation. A classification system that is based on the provision of consistent information to consumers (as opposed to a system that limits content in a prescriptive way) is more likely to succeed as a platform- or technology- neutral solution. Self- or co-regulatory schemes which apply high level principles to particular industry circumstances are also more likely to facilitate a platform- or technology-neutral classification framework.

Platform neutrality is simplistic. There are numerous scenarios in which the same content would be treated differently depending on the delivery mechanism.

Quite apart from that, there are major practical difficulties with classification of online content.

Some examples are covered in my submission.

To elaborate on this ... consider a textual article published in a newspaper that happens to infringe some vaguely defined "promotion of crime" provision. The same article online would be classified RC and banned. In the newspaper it would not be classified at all - and there would be little point classifying it retrospectively.

There are fundamental differences between e.g. newspaper and online. Newspaper continually throws content out there as a "one-off", often on very short timeframes e.g. 24 hours. Online typically makes content available whenever requested by the user and potentially forever.

Hi JT.


You're quite wrong about this: The article in the newspaper would definitely be RC.


How do I know this? Because it's already happened.


In 1996, following complaints from the Victorian Retail Traders Association, the Victorian Director of Public Prosecutions recommended charges against four student editors of Rabelais, the La Trobe University student newspaper, for publication of an article called, "The Art of Shoplifting." As a precursor to the charges, the DPP obtained a classification of the 18 Sep 1995 issue of the newspaper under classification number L00404A1C6, Classification Board file number L95/946. The resulting classification was "RC", due to the Classification Board's belief that the article in question instructed its readers in how to carry out the crime of shoplifting.


The students appealed the classification decision to the Classification Review Board, who concurred with the OFLC's decision, judging that the offending article, "promoted, incited or instructed in matters of crime or violence."


The students appealed the Classification Review Board's decision to the Federal Court. On 6 June 1997 the Court dismissed the appeal. The decision was then appealed to the full bench of the Federal Court and again dismissed on 24 March 1998. On 11 December 1998 the High Court of Australia refused to grant special leave to appeal.


The written judgement fo the full bench of the Federal Court was published as "Michael Brown & Ors v Members of the Classification Review Board of the Office of Film and Literature [1998] 319 FCA (24 March 1998)"


Heerey J's concurrence began with the statement that, "It is important that the article in question be read as a whole. The full text of the article is set out in a schedule to these reasons," then went on to reproduce the entire RC article, verbatim, before laying out reasons for his personal disagreement with the decision but noting that the only conclusion supported by the law was to uphold the RC rating.


If you're interested in what the Classification Board thinks an RC newspaper article looks like, you can find it here:
austlii.edu.au/au/cases/cth/federal_ct/1998/319.html
It's about two thirds of the way in, under the subheading "SCHEDULE".


Note that it is probably illegal to publish that article unless it's part of the Court's decision (publication of RC content is an offence, but Australia's constitutional separation of powers prevent an Act of the Parliament from interfering with a decision to publish taken by the judiciary)


- mark

But then you have the absurdity of a newspaper being able to publish something in their printed edition but not on their own website.

What is the point of that?

What do you propose as an alternative?

The government posts a Political Officer in each newspaper to make sure that nothing gets to print that is "inappropriate" (as in Fiji)?

In case anyone is confused though ... I don't think that either newspaper _or_ online should be classified or censored. That is an easy way of achieving consistency!

I was just pointing out how fundamental differences in the delivery mechanism lead to classification and censorship that do depend on the delivery mechanism.

Not censoring (or mandatorily classifying) either one is a perfectly acceptable alternative :-)

Agreed, the means of delivery mean nothing, it is the content of the material which is the keystone of importance in this matter.
An 18+ regulation on Video Games makes perfect sense, and should have been made years ago, there is no difference in the content of video games as there is in Print Media or Film...
the only ones that will complain are the kids who are not 18 y/o and they can't vote yet, but by the time they can vote, they will be old enough to have 18+ games on their Playstations, PC's etc...

So yes to content and an 18+ rule

It is absolutely correct that the content and not the method of delivery should be classified. Already, even with the in principle agreement of the AG's agreeing to an R18+ for computer games, we are seeing refinements done to the guidelines for R18+. Why? Are we classifying the fact that the delivery method is via computers and consoles or the actual content itself? There should be NO work to do here as the R18+ guidelines for DVD's and Movies should be sufficent to complete the exercise. The end result of course will be a watered down R18+ JUST for computer games. This will then slowly extend to other delivery methods in the future. If we continue down this path we will have a different classification system for everything and convergence will be an absolute nightmare to navigate. The worst thing about it is, the decisions being made are based on no conclusive evidence or fact but purely on political correctness and making small minority groups happy such as the ACL.

I planned to comment but Daniel Myles has summed it up. I second his comment.