The industry unites in calls to overhaul the classification system

Key industry groups have united in calls for an overhaul of the Classification Board, asking for unification and harmonisation across an “inconsistent system”.

As part of the government’s review of Australian classification regulation a number of groups have issued proposals which suggest numerous changes to the existing system, across the media framework.

Bridget Fair and Free TV support a review of the classification system

Free-to-air (FTA) lobby group Free TV has welcomed the review and hopes it will help achieve greater consistency across all platforms.

CEO Bridget Fair said the group supports updates to the framework.

“While the system for television is working well, the huge amount of digital content now being consumed means existing processes just can’t classify online content fast enough. We support changes to enable the existing well-understood classification markings to apply to all media content,” said Fair.

“In particular, the regulatory framework should allow content delivered on catch-up services including 7Plus, 9Now and 10 Play to be classified under the Television Classification Guidelines in the same way as broadcast content.”

However, Fair said the body doesn’t necessarily support the suggestion to split the existing PG classification into two categories.

“The existing classification markings are long-standing and have a high-level of consumer awareness,” said Fair.

“Classification categories are not shoe sizes. The reason they work so well is that they support parents to make the right decisions based on consumer advice and their children’s individual needs.”

Free TV also highlighted the need to ensure that any changes do not inadvertently increase the inconsistency in the existing scheme.

“While automated tools have the potential to deal with high volumes of material, they can also be subject to significant error rates. Changes to the existing framework will be needed to allow for re-classification of content in these circumstances,” Fair said.

The Australian Children’s Television Foundation has said the current overlapping systems result in inconsistencies and unnecessary expenses for content owners.

In its submission, the ACTF recommended a harmonised framework overseen by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), essentially surpassing the existing Classification Board.

The self-regulatory model was also supported by Screen Producers Australia, to be overseen by a single regulator.

Submissions for the review closed this week with a discussion paper expected soon and a review given to the government by April.

According to the statement released by the government at the commencement of the review, the plan is to bring the framework in line with 2020.

“The National Classification Scheme was enacted in 1995 in the age of dial-up internet. Since then, the internet and streaming services have changed the way we access and consume content,” the release read.

“The current system was not designed to manage changing technologies or the large volumes of content now available via streaming services, online game storefronts and other content platforms.”

Key issues to be considered will include:

  • How best to harmonise the regulatory framework for classification across broadcast content, online content and physical product such as DVDs and boxed games.

  • Whether the criteria for classifying films and computer games are still appropriate and useful and continue to reflect community standards and concerns.

  • The type of content that should be required to be classified.

  • Who should be responsible for classifying content and what level of government oversight is appropriate.


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