The review, due to be completed by early 2012, was 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.
The discussion paper outlines the ALRC's proposed changes to Australia's current classification laws, including the proposal 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. According to the ALRC, the classification of games likely to be rated G, PG, or M should become voluntary.
Now, ALRC review chair, professor of media and communication at the Queensland University of Technology, Terry Flew, has revealed that the ALRC is also proposing that the current M category be replaced with the more age-specific T13+ (Teen) category, across all media.
The proposed T13+ category would retain the current M classification guidelines and would bring Australia's classification system more in line with those of the USA and Europe.
"What we found particularly from parents who submitted [responses to the ALRC classification review] was that there was a lot of confusion as to what the M category is, and its relationship to the PG and MA15+ ratings," Flew told GameSpot in a recorded interview (below). "So we've delineated these categories more by age, proposing PG become PG8+, that the M category be replaced by T13+, which will retain the guidelines currently in the M category."
Flew said the ALRC is also proposing to change the wording of the MA15+ category, from "Mature Accompanied" to "Mature Audience."
"This has created a lot of legal issues around who could buy games in a shop," Flew said. "What we found was a shifting rationale behind classification--the idea that the role of classification is to protect people from dangerous content is a view still held by a number of people who submitted to this review, but generally this view is in decline. What does remain significant is the view that classification has value as an information device. People who don't see classification as particularly important for themselves do see it as relevant to children."
"We would hope that a more age-appropriate reference scale provides a better information base on which to make those decisions."
Click below to hear GameSpot AU's full interview with Professor Terry Flew.