The first comprehensive review of Australia's classification laws since 1991 has recommended only games with MA15+ content or above should be classified by the government.
The Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) Classification-Content Regulation and Convergent Media report--commissioned late last year by Federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland with the aim to reform Australia's classification laws in light of recent technological changes, media convergence, and the global distribution platforms of media content--was released in its final form last week and will now be submitted to the Australian federal government for consideration.
The report reiterated an earlier draft recommendation that only video games "produced on a commercial basis and likely to be MA15+ or higher" should be referred to the Classification Board for classification.
However, despite an earlier suggestion by ALRC review chairman Terry Flew that the current M category be replaced with the more age-specific T13+ (teen) category across all media, including video games, the final ALRC report does not recommend such a change.
"We're not proposing changes to the class categories themselves because there was significant opposition to the new categories we proposed," Flew told GameSpot AU. "The existing categories have only been in place for a while, and it was agreed that the existing classification categories are well understood in the community and that further research needed to be done before putting in new categories."
The ALRC report recommends a similar version of the framework it outlined in its discussion paper, released in September last year, including that content providers such as video game publishers should be allowed to classify lower-level games voluntarily using authorized industry classifiers. According to the ALRC, the rationale for this proposal stems from the high cost of classifying and regulating content, as well as the number of games released each year.
The report also called for the introduction of common classification categories--G, PG, M, MA 15+, R18+, X18+, and Prohibited--for application across all classified media content, as well as more regulatory powers for industry bodies such as the Interactive Games and Entertainment Association (iGEA).
"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 this final ALRC review," Flew said.
The report also recommended looking at international classification systems, such as the ESRB in the US and PEGI in the UK in regards to redeveloping Australia's own classification scheme in the area of video games, as well as recommended that classification should become a commonwealth responsibility (in contrast to the current classification system, which is the responsibility of the Australian states and territories).
The full report can be found here.