ALRC’s views

2.58 The ALRC believes that the major principles that have informed media classification in Australia, such as balancing the rights of adults to make informed media choices with the protection of children and restriction of access to some media content on the basis of community standards, continue to be relevant. While a convergent media environment presents major new challenges for the National Classification Scheme, there is still an important role for the classification of media content, and a community expectation that media content will continue to have classification markings based on well understood guidelines.

2.59 In the context of media convergence, there is a need to develop a framework that focuses upon media content rather than delivery platforms, and can be adaptive to innovations in media platforms, services and content. Failure to do so is likely to disadvantage Australian digital content industries in a highly competitive global media environment.

2.60 The current classification framework is highly fragmented, with different guidelines and regulatory arrangements for different media platforms, and unclear lines of administrative responsibility. The relationship between the Commonwealth, states and territories in particular requires significant reorganisation, and there is a case for a new Act governing classification, as well as revised regulatory arrangements.

2.61 The costs and regulatory burden of the current classification framework align poorly to community standards and expectations. There is too much top-down regulation of some media content and platforms, including double handling of the same content, while regulatory responsibilities are unclear in relation to other media.

2.62 The ALRC is of the view that a more co-regulatory approach would better align the activities of government agencies to community expectations, by enabling a greater role for industry in classifying content, and allowing government regulators to focus on the content that generates the most concern in light of community standards and the protection of children.