The Australian Law Reform Commission has released a 43 point discussion paper outlining a new framework for classification, proposing fundamental changes to the country's archaic laws, including a lifting of classification requirements on games with mild content.
Of particular note to the games industry is a suggested change as to which media must be classified. The proposal suggests classification would be required for the following media:
- feature-length films produced on a commercial basis
- television programs produced on a commercial basis
- computer games produced on a commercial basis and likely to be MA 15+ or higher
- all media content likely to be X 18+ (ie, sexually explicit adult content)
- all media content that may be RC
"The classification of most other media content - for example, books, magazines, websites, music and computer games now likely to be G, PG and M - should become or remain voluntary," the proposal concludes, meaning publishers could voluntarily submit mild content for classification - to secure a G rating sticker for a family-targeted game, for example - but would not be required to submit games M15 and below.
"The major principles that have informed media classification in Australia -such as adults should be free to make their own informed media choices and children should be protected from harm - continue to be relevant and important," the discussion paper states.
"There is a community expectation that certain media content will continue to be accompanied by classification information based on guidelines that reflect community standards. However, industry submissions to this Inquiry were almost universal in condemning the current National Classification Scheme for not responding adequately to the challenges of media convergence.
"Respondents drew attention to aspects of the current classification framework that have become dysfunctional, are failing to meet intended goals, and create confusion for the industries involved and the wider community."
Following years of inquiries, public consultations, and Attorney General back and forth, the Australian Law Reform Commission has proposed 43 significant changes to the current system, which classifies games on a different scale to other media, and is widely criticised for inconsistency and a failure to cater to adult gamers.
Some of the key proposals of the new framework ensure :
- 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 Commonwealth taking on full responsibility for administering and enforcing the new scheme
The closing date for submissions is November 18.