Guiding principles for reform

The ALRC has identified eight guiding principles for reform directed to providing an effective framework for the classification of media content in Australia. The ALRC proposes that these principles inform the development of a new National Classification Scheme that meets community needs and expectations, while being more effective in its application and responsive to the challenges of technological change. The principles are derived from existing laws, codes and regulations, as well as principles that have been identified in other relevant reviews and government reports.

The eight guiding principles are that:

(1) Australians should be able to read, hear, see and participate in media of their choice;

(2) communications and media services available to Australians should broadly reflect community standards, while recognising a diversity of views, cultures and ideas in the community;

(3) children should be protected from material likely to harm or disturb them;

(4) consumers should be provided with information about media content in a timely and clear manner, and with a responsive and effective means of addressing their concerns, including through complaints;

(5) the classification regulatory framework needs to be responsive to technological change and adaptive to new technologies, platforms and services;

(6) the classification regulatory framework should not impede competition and innovation, and not disadvantage Australian media content and service providers in international markets;

(7) classification regulation should be kept to the minimum needed to achieve a clear public purpose, and should be clear in its scope and application; and

(8) classification regulation should be focused upon content rather than platform or means of delivery.

Applying these principles, the ALRC has made 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 makes proposals regarding which media content should be classified and who should classify it, access to which content should be restricted to adults, and who should have responsibility regulating and enforcing classification laws. 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;

  • that 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 children; and

  • the Australian Government taking full responsibility for administering and enforcing the new National Classification Scheme.