The Australian Law Reform Commission's (ALRC) review into the country's classification system has determined that that only games likely to be rated MA15+ or hired should be classified by the government. The review was commissioned late last year by Federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland. The point of the review was to find ways to reform Australia's classification laws in light of changing business models, globalization of retail, and new distribution methods. The ALRC released an Issues Paper in May of this year offering an overview of the current classification system and inviting the public and the industry to respond.
The official discussion paper puts 43 proposals for reform to Australia's current classification system on the table. The most notable recommendation is that the government should only rate games that are MA15+ or higher, and games rated less then that would be voluntarily rated.
"The classification of most other media content–for example, books, magazines, websites, music, and computer games now likely to be G, PG and M–should become or remain voluntary. However, the ALRC proposes that industry bodies should develop codes of practice that encourage the voluntary classification of some of this other content, such as lower-level computer games, using the categories, criteria, and markings of the National Classification Scheme."
The ALRC also says that publishers can choose to classify lower-level games voluntarily using "authorized industry classifiers."
"There are arguably too many games developed and released each year, and developed by too diverse a range of persons, to formally classify before they are sold or distributed in Australia. Hundreds of thousands of small games, often played online or on mobile devices and developed by small developers or individuals, are now available for sale."
The ARLC says that this new system allows for an industry classification that reduces costs of regulatory burdens, takes independent developers into consideration, and givers publishers of niche products a break.
The discussion paper also notes that the R18+ debate is a prime example of why the required unanimous agreement among the Commonwealth, states, and territories to makes changes to the current ratings system is a "poorly designed" and "time consuming" process.
"The ALRC has heard loud and clear that the current system is broken and no longer fits with how people are consuming media content," ALRC President Professor Rosalind Croucher said in a press statement. "It is poorly equipped to deal with the challenges of media convergence, and the case for reform is strong. The ALRC is proposing reform that can be phased in to allow time for industry and the community to adapt to the new scheme. Responses to the paper will help inform the development of final recommendations for reform."
"The government is committed to modernizing Australia's classification system to address the challenges created by rapidly changing media technology," Federal Attorney-General, Robert McClelland and Federal Minister for Home Affairs, Brendan O'Connor, said in a joint press statement today. "The ALRC last reviewed classification standards 20 years ago. Australians need to be confident that our classification system will help them make informed choices about what they choose to read, see, hear and play. This is especially important for parents who rely on the National Classification Scheme to make sensible choices for their children."
The final ALRC report on Australia's classification scheme is due early next year.