The Australian Law Reform Commission has recommended all media in Australia should be classified and censored uniformly.
It described the Classification Act as “an analogue piece of legislation in a digital world”, with an increasing blurring between websites, blogs and video content.
ALRC commissioner Professor Terry Flew said, “Australia needs a new classification scheme that applies consistent rules to media content on all platforms — in cinemas, on television, on DVDs and on the internet.
“But the scheme also needs to be flexible, so it can adapt to new technologies and the challenges of media convergence.”
A regulator should also be set up to combine the functions of the classification branch of the Attorney-General’s Department, the director of the Classification Board, the federal communications department and the Australian Communications and Media Authority.
This new regulator would monitor and enforce compliance with classification laws, handle complaints and give administrative support to the Classification Board.
The latter would still rate content.
The recommendations are among 57 the ALRC has made in the first comprehensive review of censorship and classification in Australia in two decades, tabled in parliament on Thursday.
The report also 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.