The Australian Government announces a review of media classification and censorship law
||17th December 2019 |
See government press release from
See Terms if Reference [pdf] from communications.gov.au
The Morrison Government has announced a review of Australian classification regulation to develop a framework that reflects changing technologies and meets community needs.
Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts,
the Hon Paul Fletcher MP, said the current National Classification Scheme was established in 1995 and it is timely for review. He said:
Australians and their families rely on classification ratings to inform their
entertainment choices and they expect the advice to accurately reflect community standards.
The current framework was established in the age of dial-up internet -- well before the rise of the online streaming or gaming services we
now use daily -- so we will be looking at how to modernise it for different content and delivery platforms.
I encourage all interested parties to make a submission when the consultation period commences early next year to help us
develop a contemporary framework that meets the needs of industry while providing appropriate information and protections for consumers.
The Government has appointed Mr Neville Stevens AO as the independent expert to
lead the review. Mr Stevens, former Secretary of the Department of Communications and the Arts and current Chair of the Press Council, will provide a report on the review of Australian classification regulation to Government in April 2020.
The review forms part of the Government's response to the ACCC Digital Platforms Inquiry to develop a platform-neutral media regulatory framework, including harmonising classification across delivery formats.
discussion paper will be released in early 2020 on the Department of Communications and the Arts' website.
Australia joins the International Age Rating Coalition with view to allowing game developers to use an approved tool to rate games rather than bother the censors of the Classification Board
|10th March 2015
press release from ministerjustice.gov.au
Australia will trial a new classification tool to keep pace with mobile and online games ensuring users, particularly parents, are better informed about what types of games are being played on mobile devices.
joined the International Age Rating Coalition (IARC), a partnership of government and industry content classification authorities from around the world, including the United States, Canada, Europe and Brazil. As part of this partnership, Australia is
preparing to trial the use of IARC's new tool for classifying mobile and online games.
Participating online storefronts that use the IARC tool require game developers to obtain certification by completing a questionnaire about the
content of their games. The IARC tool then assigns games with local classifications for each member country or region based on standards set by the relevant authorities.
The use of this tool will help keep the National
Classification Scheme up to date with the pace of growth of mobile and online games. Australians who download these games through participating storefronts will soon start seeing familiar Australian classifications. Parents will also be better informed
when making decisions about what their children play on their devices.
Today's announcement follows amendments made by the Government last year to the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995 that allow the
Minister to approve classification tools for classifying publications, films and/or computer games.
After close collaboration between the IARC and my Department over many months to ensure the tool meets Australia's requirements, I
have approved the IARC classification tool for an initial 12-month trial period to begin next month.
As part of the trial, the Classification Board will audit a large number of classifications made by the IARC tool to ensure they
reflect the Australian community's expectations and standards.
The Board also has the power to revoke classifications made by the IARC tool if it decides it would have given the game a different classification.
Australia parliament passes bill to allow the use of a classification tool to rate games and apps
|28th August 2014
See article from
Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Amendment (Classification Tools
and Other Measures) Bill 2014 from parlinfo.aph.gov.au
Australia's parliament has just passed a bill to allow the government the option to allow the use of classification tools for the classification of specified categories of media, particularly computer games.
The target of the legislation is the vast
amount of apps and small games available online. Current law suggests these require to be censored by the Classification Board. However in reality this is totally uneconomic and unfeasible. The plan is to allow users to classify the apps using government
approved classification tools, presumably taking the form of a questionnaire for the games makers.
Australian Government consider software tools to classify games and movies
||6th May 2014 |
A proposal for computer software to be used to classify material, such as movies and video games, has hit the news in Australia. The Federal Government has proposed the development of digital tools to speed up the work of the Classification Board.
Responses to survey questions by producers or developers about the content of movies or games could be used by a computer program to recommend a classification. Members of the Classification Board would be able to change the final result if they
did not agree with the software's decision.
Legal academic Lyria Bennett Moses and her colleagues at the University of NSW's Cyberspace Law and Policy Community commented that draft changes to classification law did not place enough restrictions
on the use of classification tools:
At worst, there would be no human judgment applied to the necessary human judgment matters central to the classification process. A Google bot might do it.
Morality campaigners of Family Voice Australia did not believe the Government intended to use computer programs to make a classification decision. But they feared this could happen in the future, enabling pornographers to exploit the classification system by supplying incorrect information about the content of their films to censorship programs.
Justice Minister Michael Keenan told Parliament recently that a draft Bill would require any classification tools to be approved by the relevant government minister.
The Bill also provides the Classification
Board with the opportunity to classify material even after it has been considered by an approved tool, if it considers that the decision is problematic. As a final protection, if there are concerns about the effectiveness of a classification tool, its
approval may be suspended or revoked at any time.
The computer game industry supports the use of automated tools to help speed up long delays waiting for material to be classified. Since 1996, the Classification Board has classified
an average of 745 computer games a year. But more than 57,000 games were released by Apple's App Store in 2013. It also very expensive, costing upto $2460 to have a computer game classified.
The Government is also considering scrapping
proposals for 2-D and 3-D versions of the same movie to be classified separately.
Australia tweeks film censorship law to reduce red tape and censorship costs for its local industry
||19th March 2014 |
See article from
The Australian government has introduced legislation to reform the National Classification Scheme, primarily to make it faster and more cost effective to classify content for mobile platforms and online games.
Films that are released in 2D and 3D
versions won't have to be classified twice, a measure for which the industry had long lobbied.
Independent distributors had also complained about the costs of having small films classified but their push for cheaper fees fell on deaf ears.
However festivals and cultural organisations will no longer have to submit cumbersome applications to the Classification Board for a formal exemption before they screen material, providing they satisfy criteria in the Classification Act.
The legislation will remove the need for reclassification when minor changes are made to computer games such as software updates or bug fixes, or when a new song is added to a karaoke game.
The reforms are the government's first response to
proposals by the Australian Law Reform Commission's review of the National Classification Scheme.
The Commission delivered further recommendations:
- Abolish the legally binding age restriction on MA15+ rating so it becomes an advisory guidance.
- Apply uniform classification categories to content aired across all platforms, including online and mobile.
- Rename the RC (refused
classification) category as Prohibited.
- Retain the Classification Board for films and computer games but create a single agency to regulate the classification of media content, handle complaints and educate the public about the scheme.
- Empower the Classification Board to review appeals, replacing the independent Classification Review Board.
But the prospects for widespread changes were ruled out by the state and federal Attorneys-General, who indicated last year that they would merely consider areas for short-term reforms.
|6th May |
Australia discusses a new media censor with a very broad remit
article from au.news.yahoo.com
The Australian Press Council would be abolished and replaced with a single industry-led complaints body covering print, radio, television and internet news outlets under a proposed rewriting of media law.
And existing cross-media ownership regulations
would be scrapped and replaced by a minimum number of owners rule and public interest test overseen by a powerful new media censor.
The long-awaited Convergence Review into Australia's media has found the regime overseeing newspapers, TV
and radio news is outdated, thanks to the rise of the internet. The report recommends abolishing regulator the Australian Communications and Media Authority, largely regarded astoothless, and creating a media censor incorporating the Classification
The new complaints body would be funded almost entirely by its members, though the Government would be able to make contributions in unusual circumstances.
All media companies, or content service providers as they would be known,
would have to be members of the new standards body and bound to publish corrections and clarifications as ordered. To encourage companies to join the industry standards body, the report suggests linking the right to legal privilege for news and
commentary to membership.
Communications Minister Stephen Conroy gave no hint about whether the Government would adopt any of the recommendations, saying only he would respond in due course .
|28th February |
Australian law Reform Commission delivers its report on rationalising media censorship
From the Australian law Reform Commission (ALRC)
The Classification team delivered its Final Report on the Review of the National Classification Scheme to the Attorney-General. Under the ALRC Act, the Attorney-General now has 15 Parliamentary sitting days in which to table the Report. Until it is
tabled, the Report is under embargo and the ALRC is unable to make any comment about its recommendations or the Report's content.
We have also produced a short Summary Report that provides an accessible overview of the ALRC's
recommendations and approach to reform. Once these publications have been tabled, they will be available to view or download from the ALRC website.
|29th January |
New censorship scheme missing that vital X factor
See article from rossfitzgerald.com
|15th January |
A scary new Australian censorship enforcement regime applicable to individuals
See report [pdf] from alrc.gov.au
|7th November |
Australian games trade accepts the proposed censorship guidelines for R18+ games
Based on article from cio.com.au
The Australian trade group representing computer games producers has welcomed the proposed R18+ certificate for computer games.
However the Interactive Games and Entertainment Association (iGEA) says it is concerned about references in the
document to the high impact of games on players.
The document contains a segment on interactivity and computer games which says:
Due to the interactive nature of computer games and the active repetitive
involvement of the participant, as a general rule, computer games may have a higher impact than similarly themed depictions of the classifiable elements in film, and therefore greater potential for harm or detriment, particularly to minors.
It goes on to say that interactivity may increase the impact of some content.
For example, impact may be higher where interactivity enables action such as inflicting realistically depicted injuries,
death or post-mortem damage, attacking civilians or engaging in sexual activity.
iGEA chief executive, Ron Curry, said in a statement that he had concerns about the acknowledgment in the guidelines that interactivity had a greater
impact on players:
The Federal Attorney-General's office published a literature review in December 2010 that found no evidence to support these claims. There will be continued debate about whether the interactivity of
video games has a greater impact than other forms of media, and we will continue to refer to the lack of the evidence.
However, Curry accepted that compromises were made to sweeten the pill for opponents, and added that the new
guidelines appeared to exercise a high level of caution and balanced the range of views towards classifying video games.
|4th November |
Proposed censorship guidelines released for R18+ games
article from kotaku.com.au
Final Agreed Draft Guidelines [pdf] from classification.gov.au
The Australian government has published
Final Agreed Draft Guidelines [pdf] that incorporates an adult R18+ rating into the censorship scheme for games.
kotaku asked Brendan O’Connor, the minister in
charge of censorship about the timetable for the introduction of the new guidelines.
David Emery, the Manager of Applications at the Classification Branch, has recently estimated that it would be at least two years until he received an application
for an R18+ rated video game in Australia. O'Connor maintained that we wouldn't have to wait that long, but did concede that there were obstacles that have to be navigated. He said:
We need to make sure that the
legislation is enacted in all of the jurisdictions so we can have this R18+ rating in effect next year. The commonwealth has begun drafting the necessary amendments and is on track to introduce it to parliament early next year.
Meanwhile Australia's New South Wales Attorney General Greg Smith has appeared on Australia's Channel 7 News calling for the ban of
Grand Theft Auto IV. The news story also targets Saints Row The Third , claiming it glorifies blowing up petrol stations.
Elsewhere, Jim Wallace of the Australian Christian Lobby claims that Norwegian murderer Anders Behring
Breivik's citing of Call of Duty as practice indicates that video games incite violence.
Published Final Agreed Draft Guidelines
Guidelines use the following hierarchy of impact:
very mild - G
mild - PG
moderate - M
strong - MA 15+
high - R 18+
very high - RC
Assessing the impact of material requires considering not only the treatment of individual classifiable elements but also their cumulative effect. It also requires considering the purpose and tone of a sequence. Impact may be higher
where a scene or game-play sequence:
contains greater detail, including the use of close-ups and slow motion
uses accentuation techniques, such as lighting, perspective and resolution
uses special effects,
such as lighting and sound, resolution, colour, size of image, characterisation and tone Dr 6
is repeated frequently
is realistic, rather than stylised
is highly interactive
links incentives or rewards to high impact elements.
Impact may be lessened where reference to a classifiable element is verbal rather than visual. For example, a verbal reference to sexual violence is generally of less impact than a visual depiction. Also, some visual impacts have less
impact than others: for example, an incidental depiction may have less impact than a direct one. Some depictions in computer games may have less impact due to the stylised nature of computer generated images.
Interactivity is an important consideration that the Board must take into account when classifying computer games. This is because there are differences in what some sections of the community condone in relation
to passive viewing or the effects passive viewing may have on the viewer (as may occur in a film) compared to actively controlling outcomes by making choices to take or not take action. Due to the interactive nature of computer games and the active
repetitive involvement of the participant, as a general rule computer games may have a higher impact than similarly themed depictions of the classifiable elements in film, and therefore greater potential for harm or detriment, particularly to minors.
Interactivity may increase the impact of some content: for example, impact may be higher where interactivity enables action such as inflicting realistically depicted injuries or death or post-mortem damage, attacking civilians or
engaging in sexual activity. Greater degrees of interactivity (such as first-person gameplay compared to third-person gameplay) may also increase the impact of some content.
MA 15+ - MATURE ACCOMPANIED
THEMES The treatment of strong themes should be justified by context.
VIOLENCE Violence should be justified by context. Strong and realistic violence should not be frequent or unduly repetitive. Sexual
violence may be implied, if non-interactive and justified by context.
SEX Sexual activity may be implied. Sexual activity must not be related to incentives or rewards.
LANGUAGE Strong coarse
language may be used. Aggressive or strong coarse language should be infrequent, and not exploitative or offensive.
DRUG USE Drug use should be justified by context. Drug use related to incentives or rewards is not permitted.
Interactive illicit or proscribed drug use is not permitted.
NUDITY Nudity should be justified by context. Nudity must not be related to incentives or rewards.
R 18+ - RESTRICTED
THEMES There are virtually no restrictions on the treatment of themes.
VIOLENCE Violence is permitted. High impact violence that is, in context, frequently gratuitous, exploitative and offensive to a
reasonable adult will not be permitted. Sexual violence may be implied, if non-interactive and justified by context.
SEX Sexual activity may be realistically simulated. The general rule is simulation, yes – the real
thing, no .
LANGUAGE There are virtually no restrictions on language.
DRUG USE Drug use is permitted. Drug use related to incentives and rewards is not permitted.
NUDITY Nudity is permitted.
RC ƒ- REFUSED CLASSIFICATION (Banned)
Computer games will be refused classification if they include or contain any of the following:
CRIME OR VIOLENCE
Detailed instruction or promotion in matters of crime or violence.
The promotion or provision of instruction in paedophile activity.
Descriptions or depictions of child sexual abuse or
any other exploitative or offensive descriptions or depictions involving a person who is, or appears to be, a child under 18 years. Depictions of:
(i) violence with a very high degree of impact which are excessively
frequent, prolonged, detailed or repetitive;
(ii) cruelty or realistic violence which are very detailed and which have a very high impact;
(iii) sexual violence.
Implied sexual violence related to incentives
Depictions of practices such as bestiality.
Gratuitous, exploitative or offensive depictions of:
activity accompanied by fetishes or practices which are offensive or abhorrent;
(ii) incest fantasies or other fantasies which are offensive or abhorrent.
Detailed instruction in the use of proscribed drugs.
Material promoting or encouraging proscribed drug use.
Computer games will also be Refused Classification if they contain:
(i) illicit or proscribed drug use related to
incentives or rewards;
(ii) interactive drug use which is detailed and realistic.
|2nd November |
Adult gaming looks set to be delayed for another couple of years yet
See article from
Macquarie University hosted a public debate on the politics of play as part of the university's GAME festival, organised by the Interactive Media Institute. The debate considered issues surrounding the creation of an R18+ classification for
video games in Australia and how interactive entertainment is treated compared to other forms of media such as films, as well as the impact of games on society.
One of the things that came out of the debate was the news that it seems that the
already agreed introduction of an R18+ certificate for computer games looks unlikely to be introduced prior to the wider classification review.
The final report of the classification review is expected to be delivered in the first quarter of
2012. Even if the recommended changes to the classification scheme are adopted, it still is probably going to take another couple of years before you're actually going to get an R18 you can apply for like a conventional classification that you have
today, said David Emery from the Classification Branch, which is a public body supporting the operations of the Classification Board.
Emery said the legacy system of classification that Australia has been saddled with is a product of
the R18 issue not being alive when the current classification scheme was created: Games are for kids, kids shouldn't have R material, and that's how it was; we've ended up with a legacy system... the fact of the matter is that it took a long
time for a head of steam to get up from the gaming community to call for R18. It's really only been the last 18 months it's come onto the government's radar in a significant form.
|14th October |
Meet the Man Who Could Revolutionise Game Classification in Australia
See article from kotaku.com.au
|1st October |
Australia presents proposals for censorship reform
release from alrc.gov.au
See Discussion Paper [pdf] from alrc.gov.au
Professor Terry Flew, Commissioner in charge of the National Classification Scheme Review has said:
In an age of media convergence, Australia needs a 21st century classification system that is more platform-neutral,
concentrates government regulation on media content of most concern to the community, and a system that can be adapted to accelerated media innovation.
The goals of classification in balancing individual rights with community
standards and protection of children remain vitally important, but we need a new framework that minimises costs and regulatory burden, and does not penalise Australian digital content industries in a hyper-competitive global media environment.
Drawing on over 2,400 submissions responding to its May Issues Paper, the Australian Law Reform Commission found that the existing classification framework is fragmented, approaches content inconsistently across media platforms, and is
confusing for industry and the wider community.
The ALRC has now released the National Classification Scheme Review Discussion Paper [pdf]
that puts forward 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 proposes what media content should continue to be classified, who should classify it, and who should have responsibility for enforcement.
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, and ensure access to adult content is properly restricted;
- 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 their children;
- the Australian-wide Commonwealth taking on full responsibility for administering and enforcing the new scheme, rather than delegating this to individual states or territories.
Closing date for submissions is 18 November 2011.
|5th September |
The touchy topic of Australia's classification system
See article from
|5th September |
Australian Law Reform Commission invitates people to join focus groups on the subject of censorship law reform
See article from alrc.gov.au
The Australian Law Reform Commissionis conducting a review of the classification system in Australia.
As part of this review, the ALRC will hold community focus groups to test the kind of content
that may be permissible in higher level classification categories (MA15+ and above, including the Refused Classification category). This is a pilot project that will test a methodology for possible further assessment panels that might be held to
determine community standards with regards to classification categories in the future.
The ALRC will convene two volunteer focus groups in Sydney at which participants will be asked to view and discuss films, computer
games, publications and online content. NOTE: Participants will be asked to view material which they may find offensive, confronting and disturbing.
The Pilot will consist of two focus groups of 15 adults who represent
a broad cross section of the Australian community. The ALRC seeks applications from members of the community to participate in this process.
Volunteers must be over 18 years of age.
Each focus group will be held on one day only for half a day. All groups will be held in Sydney on either Saturday 22 October, Monday 31 October, or Wednesday 2 November. You must be available to attend on one of these days.
Please complete the application form, and include a description comprising no more than 300 words outlining why you are interested in taking part in the focus groups. The ALRC wants to ensure that we include people
from diverse communities and backgrounds and from all parts of Australia. You must also describe in your application how you believe you will deal personally with viewing and discussing the offensive and confronting material.
A limited number of volunteers will be selected to take part and will be notified by the ALRC no later than 14 October 2011. If you do not hear from the ALRC, you can presume that you have not been selected to participate at this
Participation in these focus groups is completely voluntary and no fee will be provided. However, the ALRC will cover reasonable costs that participants incur in order to attend the viewings and discussions,
including economy airfares, one night's accommodation if necessary due to travel requirements, and taxi fares to and from the airport. Lunch on the day of the focus group will also be provided.
further details about application from alrc.gov.au
|22nd July |
Classification system 'broken': Pirate Party Australia
See article from news.idg.no
|6th July |
Call for more gamers' contributions to Australia's censorship review
See article from
See also article from
The closing date Submissions to the Issues Paper for the Australian Law Reform Commission is July 15 yet, despite
being open since the middle of May, there are currently only 80 completed submissions. Time is running out.
Let's get motivated! These are important issues, and paramount to the way classification will be rebuilt post
the Australian Law Reform Commission's report early next year.
For details and submissions see:
|27th June |
Australia's nutter senators call for censorship of art
article from news.com.au
The report, released last week by the Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee, says the defence of artistic merit is not enough to allow some controversial works of art to be exhibited, particularly when it comes to those that depict
Chairman Tasmanian and nutter senator Guy Barnett said the current classification system was broken and flawed and the recommendation was striving for uniformity across all media platforms. Visual arts should not be
exempt from our criminal laws and our anti-pornography laws, he said.
Art Gallery of SA director Nick Mitzevich responded saying a one size fits all approach to classification might be damaging to the industry. Most of the visual
arts industry censors itself and understands the moral compass of the industry, he said. I think there's little evidence to support such a draconian approach - a one size fits all. It seems it's bureaucracy out of control.
Association of Visual Arts executive director Tamara Winikoff hoped the Federal Government would wait until the Australian Law Reform Commission's concurrent inquiry into the classification was handed down in January before entertaining the idea of a
ratings system. She warned against putting visual arts into the same category as other media. Between all sorts of cultural productions there are similarities, but the way the work is seen and understood is really very different, she said: You
can't just lump apples and oranges together.
|25th June |
Australian senate committee calls for more censorship
24th June 2011. See article from
Australia's censorship system is fundamentally flawed, it fails to protect children from pornography and it does not prevent the legal availability of graphic depictions of actual sex in some places, according to a Senate committee report.
It wants an overhaul of the classification system and more censorial rules introduced to pander to supposed community concerns about the sexualisation of society and objectification of women.
A truly national scheme would ensure explicit material that is banned in some states is not available in other parts of the country, most notably in the ACT and parts of the Northern Territory, it said.
It found that concerns about
sexual violence were being ignored by the system, as was the general rule that an R18+ classification meant simulation, yes - the real thing, no . Instead, numerous films showing graphic sex had been rated R18+ and sold in some
It raised concerns about restricted adult magazines being displayed in shops next to comics and DVDs for children.
It says that rules should be uniformly restrictive for all media, including mobile devices, while references
to context should be removed given the committee's finding they were helping to push explicit material into lower classifications.
Self-regulation of complaints about ads would be retained, subject to an appeal right to the Classification
Review Board, although industry groups opposed that call.
Offsite Comment: Who's for promoting porn?
25th June 2011. See
article from smh.com.au
The Classification Board has delicately suggested to the commission that if the availability of X18+ material was made uniform across the country, police and customs could concentrate on stopping the really nasty stuff refused any classification at
An entirely sensible thing to do, but despite the stupidity of an often-flouted rule that prefers violence to sex, and which makes it criminal to sell films of people doing what people do, who wants to be seen as promoting porn? Civil
libertarians, yes. Anyone else?
...Read the full article
|18th April |
Submissions to Australian Senate classification review propose censorship of art exhibits
See article from
Australian artists could be forced to have their work checked by censors before being displayed. Some work could be blacklisted despite being legal, if nutter recommendations to a federal inquiry into Australia's film and literature classification scheme
The Senate inquiry, launched by the nutter senator Guy Barnett, has heard submissions calling for any film containing full frontal nudity to be refused classification; artworks and books showing nudity to be classified; all artworks
to be restricted to certain age groups; and that artistic merit should be abandoned when classifying art.
The executive director of the National Association for the Visual Arts, Tamara Winikoff, said many of the organisations that had made
submissions to or spoken at the inquiry's hearings, and members of the inquiry, had tried to demonise artists and paint them as child pornographers.
We are particularly worried that artists might have to have all their work classified
immediately, regardless of the material, she said. There is a sense [in the inquiry] that art is dangerous.
Senator Barnett, who chairs the inquiry, is a critic of the photographer Bill Henson, whose photograph of a naked 12-year-old
girl sparked a ferocious debate in 2008. He questioned many of those appearing at the hearings about the Henson photographs.
The executive director of the Arts Law Centre of Australia, Robyn Ayres, said that: Classifying all artworks would
create a huge workload for bureaucrats and impose heavy costs on artists who would have to pay for their work to be classified. It would create a huge hurdle for artists and it would create a chilling effect. We have already seen it with [the depiction
of children in artworks]. Artists just don't want to be there ... there has been pressure taken over fairly innocuous work, she said, referring to the collapse of a charity auction for the Sydney Children's Hospital because hospital officials did not
approve of a photograph of a six-year-old boy naked from the waist up.
The committee is to report by June 30.