Are PG and G classifications too broad, or simple for parents?

Are PG and G too broad as classifications for audiences and should an E (Education) classification be introduced?

That’s the question under proposal by the Australian Children’s Television Foundation in its submission to the Government’s Review of Australian Classification Regulation.

ACTF argues PG (0 – 15 years) is too broad and ‘over-used,’ suggesting the difference between “mild” (PG) and “very mild” (G) is currently not clear enough. It recommends age brackets for G and PG ratings, such as G8+ and G12+, or abolishing PG altogether.

It cites titles such as Frozen 2 to movies like Spiderman Into The Spider-Verse and Fighter Preacher all given PG ratings.

ABC ME series Little Lunch received a G rating for television, but PG for its DVD release under the Classifications Board, due to its mild themes. In some cases, that could prevent a title to be shown in the classroom.

ACTF argues other countries such as Germany have introduced alternative categories that relate to different age brackets or have introduced additional guidance, such as the United Kingdom and Canada.

But commercial broadcasters reject the idea of splitting PG into two categories.

Free TV CEO Bridget Fair said, “The existing classification markings are long-standing and have a high-level of consumer awareness.

“Classification categories are not shoe sizes. The reason they work so well is that they support parents to make the rights decisions based on consumer advice and their children’s individual needs.”

In its submission Free TV wants classification categories retained, and for BVOD titles to fall under the Television Classification Guidelines. The Classification Act currently requires all content online apart from online games and online advertisements to be classified by the Classification Board.

Free TV CEO, Bridget Fair said: “While the system for television is working well, the huge amount of digital content now being consumed means existing processes just can’t classify online content fast enough. We support changes to enable the existing well-understood classification markings to apply to all media content.

“In particular, the regulatory framework should allow content delivered on catch-up services including 7plus, 9Now and 10 play to be classified under the Television Classification Guidelines in the same way as broadcast content.”

Networks also wants News, Current Affairs and Sports Programs to remain free of classification.

A discussion paper is expected soon with a review to be given to the government by April.

26 Comments:

  1. I don’t see much problem with G and PG but a whole world of dysfunction with M and MA. Many things rated M should be MA, or there needs to be two levels of M as the category is too broad. There is also a general perception in the community that M is okay for tweens. Add to that the changing rules on when the classifications can be shown (eg M material from 7.30 – prime family viewing time) and the waters are very muddy.

  2. Age-based categories neglect to take into consideration the broad variability a child’s development, so the current advisory categories are fine. I think family films should not be classified as strictly as they are, when they should have been issued a lower category with more descriptive consumer advice (as opposed to being bumped up to PG/M).

    On TEN, The Simpsons got away with infrequent use of words such as “bastard”, “ass” “crap” and “bitch” at the G rating, and nobody raised objection then. It’s a disservice to the PG rating when a single use of “crap” nowadays is rated the same as frequent use of “shit” and “arsehole”. Rating the former G for “Very mild coarse language” would be more useful.

    It seems classifiers are pandering to the minority of noisy mollycoddling parents, which has consequently diminished the usefulness of the PG category.

      • If we’re going to be pedantic (and I was trying to keep it brief as I only had 900 characters to make my point and had to cut a lot out), in context, I stated “frequent” as opposed to a single use of “crap”. There are plenty of PG rated films/TV shows (especially in the reality genre) that contain liberal use of mild coarse language such as “shit” at the PG category. The prohibition of “frequent” coarse language at the PG level is a safeguard so that one couldn’t theoretically have a work that contains “shit” and/or derogatory terms in every sentence and get away with it at PG, as such excessive use of coarse language may increase the cumulative impact to “moderate”, and therefore warrant an M classification, but that almost never happens in practice.

  3. Australian classification has always this very weird thing about 15 year olds.

    MA15+ – Not suitable for people over 15.
    M – Recommended for people over 15.
    PG – Parental Guidance recommended for people under 15.

    If MA is “not suitable” and M “maybe suitable” for 15, PG is what exactly?!?

    At the end of the day, all the introduction of MA15+ did was shift 80s/90s PG into M and M into MA.

    • MA15+ content is legally restricted to people over the age of 15.
      M content is not recommended for people under 15
      PG is not recommended for viewing by people under 15 without parental guidance

    • Jᴏʜɴɴʏ 1ᴘ5

      And not so long ago we had AV15+ which confused it all even more and thankfully they ditched that.

      Yeah it needs tidying up and if they stick with letters then for All Ages it could be an O = Open For All Ages and tidy the rest up a bit and make MA into R and 17+. I know Adult “Pay Per View” Only has R18+, however that could become X18+ and that become XXX, as we have that as a similar thing to M and MA in R18+ and X18+.

      As per my comment below G becomes 6+, PG 12+, M 15+, MA 17+ (renamed R17+), so something like Joker could come on as R17+, probably still get weird occurrences though like the latter Harry Potter Films getting an M along with say The Dark knight as is now but that could be handled in the descriptors.

      Really it also needs to be the same classification for TV, Streaming, STV, BluRay/DVD, and Cinema.

      • I agree that AV classification was ditched as it could easily fit into the consumer advice labels for M and MA classification, i.e. ‘The following program is rated M. It may contain…’

        • Jᴏʜɴɴʏ 1ᴘ5

          Yeah exactly and some of what is in MA now could fit into M with them saying the same thing, it’s time to up it a little and go to 17+ even if it did become a 9:30pm start time, should be able to show things like Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs and etc., now without edits.

  4. I think they could consider bringing back C classification and also maybe the P classification for pre-school ages. G is too broad. I don’t think they should abolish PG classification as it fits a specific purpose of including very mild adult themes, such as mild course language for example, that can be explained by a parent or adult guardian. PG shouldn’t be for early childhood ages indicated in the designated age bracket. I think it’s a matter of bringing back C classification and adjusting the recommended age brackets for the G and PG classifications.

    • I think they still has P and C classifications, but it tends to be used on the multichannels (bonus trivia: on my TV, P is listed as AGE: 5 and C is listed as AGE: 7).

      I agree that the PG classification is too broad. If it is very mild impact, give it a G rating, if it’s mild, give it PG.

      • I had a look at the TV guide and they do still seem to be used on multichannels, but not on any ABC channels for relevant programming. They are no longer listed in the government classifications lists.

  5. I believe programs should be rated on the child’s age as well! I think this is a very good idea! The US has PG-13 and I think that could work easily in Australia!

    • Actually, PG-13 is only used for movies when they are in theaters (that is what they call cinema) and not television. The classification system used for television is very different from theaters. For example, on TV it is TV-Y, TV-Y7, TV-G, TV-PG, TV-14 and TV-MA (which is rarely used on broadcast television), while cinema is G, PG, PG-13, R and NC-17.

    • Jᴏʜɴɴʏ 1ᴘ5

      Yeah in places like The Netherlands and Russia (UK is similar) you simply get:

      0+ (Suitable for all ages)
      6+ (May not be suitable for very young children)
      12+ (Intended for viewers over the age of 12)
      16+ (Intended for viewers over the age of 16)
      18+ (Unsuitable for children, only for adults)

      So we’d adopt a 0 for all audiences, G becomes 6+, PG 12+, M 15+, MA 17+.

        • Jᴏʜɴɴʏ 1ᴘ5

          Yeah I was thinking that but went 17+ as at the Cinema Joker was MA here and in the US was R17+ so dropped a year based on that, but would be okay at 18+ as M would still fit for Joker. Like I say above lots of discrepancies now with M and MA, to get latter Harry Potter films ranked M alongside films like the Dark Knight isn’t right (and Joker doesn’t deserve MA in comparison to that).

  6. I don’t think they could have an “E” for “Education”, as that already stands for “Exempt from Classification” (such as news, current affairs, sport and certain documentaries).

    • And networks themselves for broadcast still can’t even get on-air classification warnings correct! In the space of a couple of days:

      7flix aired the wrong consumer advice for Groundhog Day, “Mild Violence and Mild Coarse Language” (in a PG). It is actually “Mild Violence and Adult Themes”, as their own advanced program guide here and other guides indicates. Classification Board also matches that (theatrical back in 1993 and for DVD in early 2000s) as indicated on their databank website.

      Then on 7mate for X-Men 2, no clarification warning even aired at all! Whoops.

      Two (perhaps accidental and very rare) breaches of the code. That’s what happens with automation, play-out centre changes and staff cutting!

      • Actually, Groundhog Day is PG for “Adult themes”. The home video release also cites “mild coarse language”, but home video releases typically contain additional material that may warrant additional consumer advice (or a higher classification category altogether). It is not uncommon for there to be a disparity between the rating of a theatrical release and the home video release due to additional material in the latter. “Violence” was never cited by the OFLC/ACB (at least to warrant flagging at the PG level) for Groundhog Day. Any references to suicide, however, would be subsumed under “themes”, and the comic/fantastical context would be deemed a mitigating factor (while more serious treatment of the theme would warrant a higher classification).

    • You are right, “E” is “Exempt from Classification” here. But for general information for all you, in the United States, they use “E/I” for educational programs. And by law in the United States, broadcasters must air 3 hours of “E/I” programs on all channels, regardless of the content of the channel (classic television, sports, music, etc.). So I think we could try it in Australia.

  7. I remember when they brought in “C” classification, in about 1980. Standing for Children it meant more educational fare. Have they forgotten about that one? It was a sad day as it meant no more cartoons between 4.00 and 5.00 pm, only “C” classified fare. At least it allowed Flipper and Skippy, but the other stuff wasn’t for me.

  8. News and Current Affairs should become rated PG to ensure parents of young children are aware of violent and confronting stories. G should be for Age 4+ and PG for Age 10+.

    • If you go overseas, in many countries news and current affairs are exempt from classification, so if we classify news and current affairs, we would actually be out of sync with other countries.

      And there are currently trigger warnings in news bulletins before certain stories as well, so children are already aware of violent and confronting stories.

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