OFLC Review of the Classification Guidelines 2001

Last Updated: Updated: 31 October 2001


The Office of Film and Literature Classification (aka the Censorship Office) announced a review of classification (censorship) guidelines for Films, Videos, Internet Content and Computer Games on 25 August 2001 and called for public submissions by 31 October 2001.

For further information see:

Background

[Note: The following was current at 12 September 2001. The deadline for submissions has since passed, and more recent and detailed information regarding EFA's position on the proposed revised guidelines is available in EFA's submission to the OFLC Guidelines Review of 31 October 2001.]

To date, there have been separate classification guidelines for films/videos (last reviewed in 1996) and for computer games (in use since 1994). The OFLC is proposing to combine both sets of guidelines because, they say:

"technical advancements have blurred the distinction between films and computer games"
and
"[a]n approach where classification standards vary on the basis of the format or medium in which the content is distributed is increasingly difficult to maintain" and can "be difficult for the Classification Board to explain and apply".

However, it is questionable whether the difficulties the OFLC claims to experience are due to "technical advancements" of themselves or to the different levels of censorship applicable to films and computer games.

The outcome of the guidelines review is highly likely to herald the introduction of more restrictive censorship in Australia because:

  • in combining the guidelines for computer games and films, the more restrictive aspects of the existing computer games guidelines are likely to be applied to films, videos and Internet content in future, and
  • historically, the majority of submissions (usually about 150) received by the OFLC in response to a review of guidelines have been lodged by groups and individuals calling for increased censorship and the review outcome has been greater restrictions on what adults are free to see, read and hear.

In addition to re-wording the actual guidelines, the OFLC proposes to introduce new "concepts" for deciding whether information should be censored such as: "interactivity", "imitability", "dominant effect", "technical features" eg. "pixelation", etc.

The OFLC Discussion Paper includes a number of questions on which they seek public views, including:

  • Should interactive products, such as DVDs, computer games and online content, be classified the same way as cinema films and videotapes?
  • Should the current system for classifying computer games be retained?
  • Should there be a single, consistent set of classification symbols and categories?
  • Should there be an R classification for computer games?
  • The draft combined guidelines contain new classification concepts, definitions and explanations relevant to convergent media. Are these new concepts, definitions and explanations likely to improve the application and relevance of the national classification scheme?
  • Are the standards in the draft combined guidelines clear, appropriate and adequate?
  • Are there other issues related to the effective operation of the guidelines which should be considered in the review?

Submissions to the review can be in the form of a short letter, or a more comprehensive paper. It is not essential to address every matter raised in the OFLC paper. You can express your views, for example, on one or more of the following:

  • the current level of censorship in Australia
  • one or more of the questions in the OFLC discussion paper
  • the proposed re-wording of the guidelines
  • any other matter you consider relevant.

Submissions to the OFLC guidelines review may be made by email or postal mail (addresses and further information are provided in the OFLC Discussion Paper). The closing date for submissions is 31 October 2001.