All media in Australia should be classified, and censored, in the same way, according to a landmark report published today.
Conducting the first review of Australia's classification laws in 20 years, the Australian Law Reform Commission found that the rapid rise of new forms of media had overtaken existing classification laws.
The review would have far-reaching implications for Australia's media. Radio and television broadcasters are subject to regulation by the Australian Communications and Media Authority. Television broadcasters are also subject to guidelines under
the Commercial Television Code of Practice.
The report recommended:
One set of laws establishing obligations to classify or restrict access to content across media platforms.Clear scope of what must be classified: feature films and television programs, as well as computer games likely to be MA 15+ or higher,
that are both made and distributed on a commercial basis, and likely to have a significant Australian audience.
A shift in regulatory focus to restricting access to adult content, by imposing new obligations on content providers to take reasonable steps to restrict access to adult content and to promote cyber-safety.
Co-regulation and industry classification, with more industry classification of content and industry development of classification codes, but subject to regulatory oversight.
Classification Board benchmarking and community standards, with a clear role for the Classification Board in making independent classification decisions that reflect community standards.
An Australian government scheme that replaces the current co-operative scheme with enforcement under Commonwealth law.
A single regulator with primary responsibility for regulating the new scheme.
Professor Flew of the ALRC said:
Classification criteria should also be reviewed periodically, to ensure they reflect community standards,
One category that may no longer align with community standards is 'Refused Classification' or 'RC'. The scope of this category should be narrowed, and the ALRC suggests changes for government to consider.
[So it is recommended that hardcore porn be legalised for sale across Australia with self classification by the industry. But all this in return for the adult industry taking on board strict conditions to ensure that the material is not sold to
under 18s. In fact, any such restrictions will apply equally to softcore and even mainstream R18+ horror films for adults].
The Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) report about rationalising media censorship across all formats has proposed some sensible reforms to remove some of the more ludicrous anomalies in Australian media censorship.
The current so called 'Refused Classification' (RC) category will be narrowed down a little and renamed to the more sensible tag, 'Prohibited'.
The ALRC first recommended that RC be renamed Prohibited to avoid confusion:
The plain meaning of the term is confusing, because content that is 'Refused Classification' has, in fact, received a classification. That is, the term is open to misunderstanding, because it does not make it clear that the content has been
subject to a classification decision-making process.
The ALRC has recommended that the government should review prohibitions on the depiction of sexual fetishes in films and detailed instruction in the use of proscribed drugs , as well as refining prohibition on content that promotes,
incites or instructs in matters of crime to be only limited to serious crime .
ISPs would only be required to block prohibited content once it has been classified as being prohibited, the ALRC said, and, given the large amount of content online, the ALRC suggested that only a sub-category of prohibited content should be
blocked by the filter, such as child-abuse material.
Another important recommendation of the review is that adult X18+ hardcore content need not be classified beyond the self declared X18+ label. At present such material may only be sold in shops in Canberra and the Northern Territory. It is
recommended that it would be made legal across Australia.
But the regulation should be refined to protect minors from accessing the content. The ALRC conceded that it would not be possible for the Classification Board to classify all adult content online, suggesting that ISPs should take reasonable
steps to restrict access to the content by minors, such as promoting family friendly filters, or potentially implementing age-verification tools for sites that the ISP knows to be classified X18+.
Government politicians have said little so far about the recommendations. However the Pirate Party have responded.
Pirate Party Australia has welcomed some of the recommendations made by the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) about reforming the current classification system.
Several recommendations in the ALRC's final report conform to the Pirate Party's policies, the party said in a statement. David W. Campbell, Party President said that the recommendation to use the term Prohibited in place of the spineless and vague 'Refused Classification'
label was a move in the right direction. Too much content is left in limbo. Hopefully this is a victory for common sense, and we will see less content lumped in with materials that truly deserve to be illegal, such as child pornography.
Speaking about freedom of expression, the Party statement approved the possible redefinition of the Prohibited category to narrow its scope and review the prohibitions on depictions of sexual fetishes. The Party believes that it is
indicative of a progressive society and feels it is necessary to bring the category in line with what are socially acceptable practices to certain communities legally engaging in the practices depicted.
The Party however, raised an objection to the inclusion of a recommendation which has appeared to some to compel Internet Service Providers (ISP) and other intermediaries to filter the Internet. The Party has been continuously campaigning against
the compulsory Internet filter proposed by Stephen Conroy, the present Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy.
The inclusion of the toxic notion of Internet Service Provider obligations is once again flogging the dead horse of privacy encroachment and destructive breakdown of Australian citizens' rights, Campbell elaborated. Saying that the
recommendation tries to convert ISPs into enforcement agencies, Campbell referred to the technical impracticalities of restricting any content on the Internet without destroying it. This expansion of 'intermediary liability' constantly rears
its head in all facets of Internet governance --- it is both unwarranted and unnecessary, he said.