Classification - content regulation and convergent media
This is the first comprehensive review of censorship and classification since the ALRC report, Censorship Procedure, published in 1991 (ALRC Report 55). That report recommended a legislative framework that would enable the Commonwealth, states and territories to take a national approach to classification. Its recommendations formed the basis of the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995 (Cth) (Classification Act), and what is commonly referred to as the National Classification Scheme.
Censorship Procedure advanced classification policy in Australia by recommending a cooperative scheme between the Commonwealth, states and territories, and identified the important role to be played by an independent Classification Board and Classification Review Board. However, it was developed in a ‘pre-internet’ environment, when the wider implications of media convergence for content regulation generally were not yet understood.
In the context of ever greater convergence of media technologies, platforms and services, and more media being accessed from the home through high-speed broadband networks, the need for a comprehensive review of classification laws and regulations became apparent. In providing the reference for this Inquiry to the ALRC, the Attorney-General had regard to the rapid pace of technological change in media available to, and consumed by, the Australian community, and the needs of the community in this evolving technological environment.
The major principles that have informed media classification in Australia—such as adults being free to make their own informed media choices and children being protected from material that may cause harm—continue to be relevant and important. While a convergent media environment presents major new challenges, there continues to be a community expectation that certain media content will be accompanied by classification information based on decisions that reflect community standards.