Speaking to Ben Grubb over at the Sydney Morning Herald, Brendan O'Connor discussed classification, more specifically the classification of mobile apps on the App Store.
The summary of decisions from the SCAG meeting last weekend stated that mobile games on the app store would be "treated similarly to other online content, rather than stand alone computer games." In short this decision means that games on the app store would only be classified should members of the public make a direct complaint about the game. This is a move explicitly designed to take the load off the Classification Board.
According to O'Connor the "absolute explosion of tens of thousands of games on mobile platforms" placed "unsustainable strain on the Classification Board".
"Under the change... the public will still be able to [have]protections such as submitting games to the Classification Board for consideration and lodging a complaint with the Australian Communications and Media Authority."
This seems to be a solution O'Connor hinted at when we discussed the issue with him earlier last year.
“It’s a tough question,” began O’Connor, when asked how the government would attempt to classify the massive influx of online video game content. “How do we regulate this stuff in the 21st century? There’s different agencies, different stuff, we have to think about how we can manage it.”
At that time we suggested some sort of self regulation - to which he agreed.
“You know, I don’t want to jinx the findings of the Australian Law Review Commission,” he began, cautiously, “but that’s a path we may have to look at.
“I think there’ll probably have to be some sort of balance – there needs to be a complimentary approach where we work together towards some sort of self regulation.”
At the time we were referring to some sort of industry body, which may be the solution the Australian Law Review Commission comes to when it presents its findings this December, but in the interim, under a present set of guidelines that requires every app be classified, this may be decent solution.
"Theoretically the board must classify every application," claimed O'Connor. "But you would need an army, literally an army of classifiers to get through the applications because the growth has been exponential and for that reason we're going ... to a complaint-based approach."
When we spoke to Paul Hunt, the ex-Deputy Director of the Classification Board, he discussed this very issue in detail.
“I actually think it’s a waste of time to classify the amount the board are classifying now,” claims Paul. “Attempting to classify mobile games – it’s silly. It’s just silly.
“Having a system where the industry has more regulatory control, with the government overseeing it, is a far more efficient model, in my opinion. And I know that if I was still in charge of the resources I’d just say look – there’s no way we can do every app on the App Store, for example. Even if you cut it down to just the games, you’d still be buggered."
Overall this seems to be a solid solution for the short term. Hopefully in the long term the Attorneys-General will be keen to implement a system that allows for industry self-regulation.