After the relative disappointment of the SCAG meeting, the Minister of Home Affairs Brendan O' Connor was quick to salvage the situation by claiming that a revised set of guidelines would be created in order to best suit a changing media landscape. Today we received news that the Australian Law Reform Commission has been asked to conduct a review of classification in Australia, a move that could have an impact (positive or negative) on the possibililty of an R18+ rating for video games.
The Australian Law Reform Commission has been asked to conduct a review that extends beyond video games to all forms of media, in response to a rapidly evolving media landscape - and apparently it's all tied in to the introduction of the NBN, the details of which were released yesterday by Communications Minister Stephen Conroy.
“It has become increasingly clear that the system of classification in Australia needs to be modernised so it is able to accommodate developments in technology now and in the future,” claimed O'Connor.
“When the National Classification Scheme began, classifiable content and the way it was delivered to consumers was relatively static.
“Today, films can be watched in a cinema, on DVD, on TV or downloaded. Many video games include significant film segments to tell stories, and some films have interactive content. The National Broadband Network will increase this ready access to classifiable content.”
The review will be an extensive one, and essentially exists to help manage how classification evolves to accomodate new technology and media.
Which is good news, to an extent. The issue of classification, and the current flaws in the system, are clearly being taken very seriously indeed. But we have to take issue with the manner in which the Government seems to think it can somehow classify every piece of media that Australians will eventually have access to.
It's a difficult situation, and one that could potentially affect how we consume media. Classification as we know it is outdated and ill equipped to deal with the challenges of the modern media landscape, and a revamp is undoubtedly required.
“People, particularly parents, need a system of classification in Australia that allows them to make informed choices about what they wish to read, see and hear,” Mr O’Connor said.
“This important review will look not only at classification categories, but also at the whole classification system to ensure it continues to be effective in the 21st century.”
At this stage it's difficult to tell how this will affect the potential R18+ rating for video games. The ALRC are due to report back on December 9, 2011. To an extent the R18+ issue and the overhaul of the classification system are being treated as two seperate issues, but the two are undoubtedly intertwined. There is a possibility that the Attorneys-General will want to wait for this classification review before making any final decisions on an adult rating for video games. In short, that this review could end up delaying the process until 2012.
A spokesperson for Brendan O'Connor's office stated, however, that the two issues were "seperate". Apparently this review and the new proposed guidelines for video games have "nothing to do with each other."
Time will tell - hopefully there will be more movement after the next SCAG meeting in March.
In the meantime, the Classification website is currently inviting comments on the upcoming review until January 28. If you head here you can make your comments known with regards to any classification issues, including video games.