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Digital content faces rating scrutiny

Classification reforms usher in red tape for new media

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Apps could soon be subject to the same classification regulation as film and video games in Australia, if a new draft of reforms from the committee reviewing the National Classification Scheme is accepted.

Coming from a Liberal party-dominated committee, the recommendations carry more than a little irony, given that last week a former party staffer boasted of the party's non "nanny state" attitude to censorship.

The inquiry, the first major review of the National Classification Scheme since it was introduced over 15 years ago, has received 70 submissions from organizations and individuals.

Handing down its recommendations, the committee has recognized the outdated nature of the classification system but has called for a blanket approach to updating the regulations in light of the development of cross platform content across mobile, web and other devices.

“The committee recommends that, to the extent possible, the National Classification Scheme should apply equally to all content, regardless of the medium of delivery,” it states.

In the committee's view, the National Classification Scheme is” flawed”, and cannot be sustained in its current form. It also calls for an end to co-regulatory and self-regulatory systems branding them as “far from adequate, particularly given the increasing convergence of media.”

It also proposes increasing the powers of the Classification Review Board, making it the final arbiter across all media.

The committee also recommends that state-based classification powers be passed upwards to the national government.

The review committee comprises a Liberal-heavy team featuring four Liberal party senators, two Labor party senators and one senator from the Greens. The Committee is chaired by Liberals Senator Guy Barnett.

Former Liberal party staffer and Institute of Public Affairs Associate Editor James Paterson recently publicly defended the Liberal’s as the party for the Gen Y crowd as “the Liberal Party doesn't adopt a nanny state solution to every perceived social problem. You will never see Liberals out there proposing an internet filter.”

The two Labor members of the committee, Senators Trish Crossin and Mark Furner, have subsequently filed a report stating that they "cannot support many of the proposals in the committee's report.” The duo believe that an impending review of the Scheme from the Australian Law Reform Commission is the most appropriate forum for reforms, rather than the Senate review.

Due to the increased scope of the Classification Scheme’s scope the review team also recommends an expansion in the size of, and funding for, the Classification Liaison Scheme, including provision for representatives to be based in each state and territory. ®

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