Legislation or industry codes

9.60 In the ALRC’s view, there should be a consistent process for making classification decisions, regardless of who is classifying the media content, what industry sector they represent and the type of media content or delivery platform. As many submissions agreed, consumers should be confident that a PG classification means the same thing and contains the same level of content no matter what the media type. This is consistent with a guiding principle for reform of the scheme, that consumers should have access to clear information.

9.61 Uniformity and consistency in decision-making are best achieved by establishing statutory classification categories and criteria that represent the same minimum standards and requirements for classification decision-making by all classifiers. As the National Film and Sound Archive notes, ‘consistency in criteria would promote consistency in classification decision-making for the benefit of all audiences’.[63]

9.62 For this reason, the ALRC proposes that the Classification of Media Content Act provide one set of ‘statutory classification criteria’ that must be used by all classifiers who make classification decisions under the proposed new classification system.

9.63 Some submissions expressed the view that some matters, such as guiding principles for decision making and matters relevant to the classification framework are appropriately set out in the Act, so that changes can only be made by Parliament following debate by both Houses.[64] There was also consensus that the detailed classification criteria (for example, in the Code and the current classification guidelines) should be separately established so that they can be more readily amended to flexibly respond to changing community attitudes and technological developments.[65]

9.64 The ALRC agrees that legislation should set out the classification categories and the matters that must be taken into account when making a classification decision, but it need not contain the detailed classification guidelines. This would better facilitate periodic review of the classification guidelines, that should be undertaken every five years in consultation with key stakeholders and the broader community.

9.65 To assist classifiers and consumers alike, the ‘statutory classification criteria’—the classification categories and matters set out in the Act plus the Code and the detailed classification guidelines—should be contained in a separate legislative instrument that consolidates all decision-making information.

9.66 Industry codes of practice might describe classification criteria in more detail or provide additional guidance on the application of the criteria, for example, by providing relevant examples.

Proposal 9–4 The Classification of Media Content Act should provide for one set of statutory classification criteria and that classification decisions must be made applying these criteria.

[63] National Film and Sound Archive of Australia, Submission CI 1198, 16 July 2011.

[64] J Dickie, Submission CI 582, 11 July 2011.

[65] For example, MLCS Management, Submission CI 1241, 16 July 2011; ASTRA Subscription Television Australia, Submission CI 1223, 15 July 2011; Interactive Games and Entertainment Association, Submission CI 1101, 14 July 2011.