The Classification Review Board would be abolished and the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) would oversee the classification of commercially-provided content across all platforms if the Federal Government accepts the ACMA’s submission to the classification review.

The ACMA supports proposals by the Film Industry Associations, Screen Producers Australia and the Australian Children’s Television Foundation for a new federal model in which the screen industry manages self-classification of its content across platforms, similar to the current broadcasting arrangements.

While the agency says that model could accommodate retaining the Classification Board, which has a limited role in the classification of films, games and publications, it states: “It would be more efficient for the classification of commercially provided content, regardless of platform, to have oversight by a single regulator, the ACMA.

“This would reduce the costs to industry and government of the current arrangements while retaining the features of the Board such as statutory independence.”

The Classification Review Board would be dissolved with review rights being handled by the ACMA.

Announcing the review in December, Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts Paul Fletcher said the existing classification scheme, established in 1995, needs to be modernised to reflect the contemporary media environment.

Major and independent film distributors and exhibitors, SPA and the Australian Home Entertainment Distributors Association are pressing the government to introduce a PG13 classification which they say would benefit family-friendly Australian and international films that get M ratings.

However Free TV Australia and SBS want to maintain the existing categories. “Any change to classification categories risks introducing audience confusion and will result in unnecessary significant compliance costs and implementation issues,” SBS says in its submission.

If the government does contemplate changes it should first undertake quantitative research among a significant sample of the Australian population and then consult publicly on any proposed changes informed by this research, SBS says.

SBS also supports ACMA’s role in handling escalated complaints about broadcast content and advocates a one-stop-shop for complaints in any revised classification review system.

The broadcaster will review its Codes of Practice, which cover broadcast and online services, including classification requirements and processes, this year.

In its submission Netflix touts the success of its “world-first” classification tool for Australia, designed and developed in partnership with the government.

However Netflix says the automated tool is required to be capable of producing more than 60 possible unique consumer advisories, questioning the need for that degree of specificity.

By contrast, the Dutch Kijkwijzer system only uses six unique advisories (violence, fear, sex, discrimination, drug and/or alcohol abuse and coarse language) while the Korean Media Ratings Board uses seven.

Neville Stevens, the independent expert leading the review, will present a report to Fletcher. Under an intergovernmental agreement, all Commonwealth, state and territory classification Ministers must unanimously agree to any amended code and films and computer games guidelines.

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