Classification Review: Final Report Recommends Industry Co-Regulation And Platform Neutrality

Earlier communication from the Classification Review has continually argued for an increased amount of industry regulation when it comes to classification in Australia and the final report, which was released today, reinforces these earlier statements. The final recommendations argue for an increased amount of industry co-regulation, and complete parity when it comes to classification.

Simply put: we could be looking at more input from the games industry when it comes to the classification of video games, if the government takes on board the recommendations of the Classification Review.

"The volume of content is one of the key reasons the ALRC recommends, in Chapter 7, a greater role for industry classifiers in the new scheme," says the report, which can be read in full here. "If industry had a greater role in classification, it may be possible to classify more content."

The report was keen to stress that all video games expected to rate MA15+ or above must still be classified by the Classification Board.

[T]he ALRC recommends that, of the content that must be classified, the following content must be classified by the Board: • feature films for Australian cinema release; and • computer games likely to be MA 15+ or higher.

However, the Regulator should also be provided with the power to determine the media content that must be classified by the Board, so that this may be changed over time, in response to the evolving media content environment and community concerns.

Apart from the media content that must be classified by the Board, the ALRC recommends that all other media content may be classified by trained authorised industry classifiers, including feature films not for cinema release and television programs.

Another key term used throughout the report was platform neutrality. Media convergence across mobile, tv, cinema and games means that making distinctions between different types of media is a largely useless exercise. The Classification Review recommended that ratings be completely consistent across different platforms.

This is partly to make the ratings clear and consistent across different formats, but also an attempt to keep things flexible as media continues to converge in the future.

The ALRC recommends the introduction of common classification categories— G, PG, M, MA 15+, R 18+, X 18+ and Prohibited—for uniform application across all classified media content. This would mean that the same classifications and markings would be used in cinemas, on television, on DVD and computer games packaging, and on websites with classified content. In line with two of the guiding principles for reform, consumers would benefit from information that is clear and consistent and the approach reflects the goal of platform neutrality.

All in all the final recommendations don't differ greatly from previous communication from the Classification Board. From what we've read so far it seems like a flexible, intelligent response to the way in which modern media has adapted over the last 20 years.

Here's hoping the relevant decision makers take these recommendations on board.

You can read the full report here.


    So is this suggesting more self-regulation for the industry provided the games are expected to be under the MA15+ rating? Essentially, developers or publishers can rate their games without having to submit them to classification board?

    Example: Dev/publisher have a game based on Dora The Explorer, it's a kids title so it isn't expected to have swearing, nudity, drug use, violence etc. so the publisher can apply their own rating of G or PG. That way there is no need to offer it for review to the classification board.

    However another company is making Doom 4. Blowing shit up, killing things, blood soaked environments and the like are part-and-parcels with title like this so it would be submitted and given the appropriate rating by the classifications board. (Hopefully an R18+).

    Do I have that right, or have I misunderstood?

      Basically, anything that isn't a feature film, TV show or video game likely to be MA15+ or higher could be classified by the content provider, provided they meet the requirements set out for the regulator (training and whatnot so that they aren't just picking classifications out of the hat).

      It's worth noting that they refer to using classifications from other systems and that MA15+ will no longer be formally age restricted (so it'd be up to whoever is selling the content to decide if they're checking ID or not).

        So does that mean M will disappear and MA becomes the new M? Because M is the unrestricted rating now. Keeping both seems unnecessary.

          Got to remember that this is all recommendations.

          Not a single line of this ~400 page document is necessarily going to be turned into law.

          But they do explicitly refer to both M and MA15+ classifications. So it seems unlikely that they want to change or remove either of them.

        They don't seem to suggest a TV show has to rated by the board only feature films

        I assume this is because the amount of TV that comes out per week is too high to classify it all.

    I'm actually reading the whole thing right now.

    Of particular interest:

    The Classification of Media Content Act should
    frame the ‘Prohibited’ category more narrowly than the current ‘Refused
    Classification’ category. In particular, the Australian Government should review
    current prohibitions in relation to:
    (a) the depiction of sexual fetishes in films; and
    (b) ‘detailed instruction in the use of proscribed drugs’.
    The Government should also consider confining the prohibition on content that
    ‘promotes, incites or instructs in matters of crime’ to ‘serious crime’

    Sure, it's for the sake of the web filter but it does have some nice follow on effects that should allow for a lot of current RC content to be resubmitted and given appropriate R or X ratings (or PG for that Mark Ecko game :p).

    [quote][T]he ALRC recommends that, of the content that must be classified, the following content must be classified by the Board:
    • computer games likely to be MA 15+ or higher[/quote]

    The way that Apple police the iOS marketplace means that it should end up being pretty much exempt from being classified by the board.

    The language regarding 'trained authorised industry classifiers' almost makes me wonder if games could rely on PEGI ratings for everything below PEGI 16 if that system is considered to be authorized. But that would be incredibly logical and practical not to mention save time and money, so there's no way that'll happen. :(

    I'm a little bit surprised they haven't considered axing the names for the current rating categories. The distinction between M and MA15+ is still not well understood by the population as a whole.

      Using PEGI definitely looks like a possibility.

      M and MA15+ has been an issue for a while. When they changed the classification logos, some of the research suggested changing MA15+ to A15+ so that there's a clear distinction. By making MA15+ no longer age restricted (one of the recommendations was to only restrict R18+ and X18+ content), it will definitely only confuse the matter.

        I wrote in my submission that they should change MA to just A15. Working in retail I've had customers ask me what the difference is between M and MA and having a clear distinction would prevent that. Alas it seems it was not to be.

          If you can be bothered looking up the literature about the classification labels, the research showed (pretty clearly) that nobody knew what the difference between M and MA15+ was and that changing MA15+ to A15+ would have helped.

          They instead made the label red.

            The colour thing was following the logic that you go from "safe" colours (green) and ramp it up to "danger" colours (black).

            Then they went green (G), yellow (PG), blue (M), red (MA15+) and black (x/R18+).

            By that logic, I would have swapped PG and M.

    Wonder if this means we could finally get the Xbox Indie Games Channel. So many apparently good shmups on there that I'm missing out on...

    As I understand it, the ALRC are reccomending all media should have uniform ratings and ratings should range fromG to X18+...
    Does that mean games will be able to qualify for X18+ ratings?
    Not that there are many games which would, but this could be seen as a progressive step, lit. risky.

      They're very clear on being platform neutral. There was mention of material that was RC in some format being allowed as R18+ or X18+ in another format and it was pretty clear that was something that shouldn't be happening.

      So by the looks of it, if the recommendations go through, as written, we would see X18+ classification for all platforms. Games and television included (TV is currently classified by the channel broadcasting the content and I think they have an AV rating instead of R and no X rating, it's been a while since I checked that one).

        Probably worth noting that even if they do allow it federally, it's up to the states whether they allow material with certain classifications to be sold there.

          Another recommendation was to make it an entirely national scheme instead of the current system of having it handled on a state by state basis. Which makes a hell of a lot more sense.

        Television is a bit of an exception as MA content is meant to be restricted, it can be enforced by parental settings on most receivers but its not a certainty. As a result R rated content and above cannot be transmitted. AV is just the hard end of MA.

        I really can't see the government agreeing with the recommendation of uniform ratings. Just look at the debate about the interactive nature of video games requiring tougher rules when it came to the R18+ debate. No sitting government is going to push for X18+ games as it's far too hard to sell to Mum and Dad's - you can be sure the ACL will make certain of it.

          If we're lucky the ACL may just let the X rating slide, the main reason being that you can only buy X rated material in sex shops. Then again this is the ACL we're talking about, logic isn't one of their strong points.

    now can we get that stupid small breasts thing overturned? it's so sexist...

    This makes too much sense. Why do I get the feeling this is all to make us a little bit more open to mandatory ISP filtering? "Dont worry rad gamers and tech head computer freaks! Look at us, we can be responsible about classification! No need to worry! Go back to playing your pokemans and reading blogs about surfn teh webzz!"

    If all of the reforms are implemented it will lead to less bureaucracy and better transperancy. So forget it. It'll be watered down like it always is so someone can keep their job.

    :/ 400 page report, I will read it, I will... oo shiny

    Oh look what we have here, a news article showing a highly unbalanced view of the issue coming from a news ltd website:
    While it isn't as bad as some of the other ones we've seen, they do kinda miss the point a bit.

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