Regulatory forms

13.5 The development and operation of industry classification codes involves elements of co-regulation. Co-regulation is a regulatory form that can be placed on a continuum of government oversight ranging from self-regulation, through quasi-regulation and co-regulation, to direct government regulation.[1] Some examples of these forms are described below, with reference to aspects of the current classification system.


13.6 Self-regulation is generally characterised by industry-formulated rules and codes of conduct, with industry solely responsible for enforcement.

13.7 For example, the content of advertising is subject to a self-regulatory system created by the Australian Association of National Advertisers (AANA) in 1998. The AANA established a Code of Ethics and the Advertising Standards Bureau (ASB), which incorporates an independent Advertising Standards Board to hear complaints regarding advertising content.

13.8 The ‘classification’ of audio material is also self-regulated, under the Recorded Music Labelling Code of Practice.[2] There is no legislation and individual record companies are responsible for labelling recordings under a code that outlines labelling provisions and establishes a complaints-handling mechanism.

13.9 The processes and procedures followed by video-sharing websites and other internet content providers in controlling content that they sell or distribute may also be characterised as a form of self-regulation. These processes include responding to user reporting (or ‘flagging’) of inappropriate content and methods to detect inappropriate content using algorithms and other technical means. For example, YouTube users click a flag button to report a video which they consider to be inappropriate and flagged videos are routed into ‘smart’ queues for manual review by a specialist review team before a decision is made whether to take the video down, or age-restrict it.[3]


13.10 Quasi-regulation describes those arrangements where government influences businesses to comply, but which do not form part of explicit government regulation.

13.11 An example of quasi-regulation is the agreement by Telstra, Optus and Primus to filter voluntarily a list of child abuse URLs compiled and maintained by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (the ACMA). This arrangement was entered into against the background of the Australian Government’s proposed system for mandatory internet service provider level filtering of URLs.[4]

13.12 Arguably, the AANA self-regulatory system for advertising might equally be characterised as quasi-regulation. This is because governments may have regulated this area if a self-regulatory regime did not exist—and may regulate in the future if this regime does not demonstrate its responsiveness to community expectations.[5]


13.13 Co-regulation typically refers to situations where industry develops and administers its own arrangements, but government provides legislative backing to enable the arrangements to be enforced.

13.14 Regulation of radio and television content is co-regulatory. Various industry groups have developed codes under the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 (Cth). Most aspects of program content are governed by these codes, which include the Commercial Television Industry Code of Practice and the Commercial Radio Australia Code of Practice and Guidelines. Once implemented, the ACMA monitors these codes and deals with unresolved complaints made under them.

Direct government regulation

13.15 Direct government regulation comprises primary and subordinate legislation. It is the most commonly used form of regulation.[6] Direct government regulation applies to the classification of publications, films and computer games under the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995 (Cth) (Classification Act).

[1] See Australian Government, Best Practice Regulation Handbook (2010). The ALRC’s usage of these terms is based on this publication.

[2] Australian Music Retailers Association and Australian Recording Industry Association, Recorded Music Labelling Code of Practice (2003).

[3] Google, Submission CI 2336.

[4] See S Conroy (Minister for Broadband Communications and the Digital Economy), ‘Outcome of Consultations on Transparency and Accountability for ISP Filtering of RC Content’ (Press Release, 9 July 2010).

[5] See, eg, House of Representatives Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs, Reclaiming Public Space: Inquiry into the Regulation of Billboards and Outdoor Advertising: Final Report (2011), viii, rec 2.

[6] Australian Government, Best Practice Regulation Handbook (2010), 34–35.