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.