Australian Council on Children and the Media

Editorial: One size does not always fit all March 2, 2020

 

BRIDGET Fair, chief executive officer of the free-to-air TV industry body Free TV Australia, gained quite a bit of
coverage with her media release of February 25 titled 'Free TV Broadcasters welcome greater harmonisation of
classification rules'.

In this Ms Fair (inset, below) says: “Free TV supports updating the classification framework to ensure it is operating effectively in the modern media landscape.
“While the system for television is working well, the huge amount of digital content now being consumed means existing processes just can’t classify online content fast enough,” Ms Fair says.
“We support changes to enable the existing well-understood classification markings to apply to all media content.
“In particular, the regulatory framework should allow content delivered on catch-up services including 7Plus, 9Now and 10 Play to be classified under the Television Classification Guidelines in the same way as broadcast
content.”
However, Ms Fair says the body doesn’t necessarily support the suggestion to split the existing PG classification into two categories.
“The existing classification markings are long- standing and have a high-level of consumer awareness,” Ms Fair says.
“Classification categories are not shoe sizes.The reason they work so well is that they support parents to make the right decisions based on consumer advice and their children’s individual needs.” ACCM agrees
with the need for classification to be applied to a much wider range of media than at present, and hence supports the need for an automated system to enable this. We also recognise that the longstanding classification symbols are very familiar to Australian audiences.
We strongly disagree, however, that they work well and support parents’ decisions.
ACCM’s experience and feedback from parents tell a different story.
The symbol PG is certainly well recognised, but does not enable parents to make age- appropriate choices for their children , particularly for those in early childhood.
Parents need and want more classification categories under the age of 15 years.
To replace PG and M with 5+, 9+ and 12+ is to simply equip parents with better tools to protect their children from harm from inappropriate content.
To liken that to providing “shoesizes” seems to us to be taking a very cavalier attitude to child protection.
One could say that the present system is like putting a young child in teenage size wellington boots and expecting them to walk well.
Let’s learn from The Netherlands with its 20 year old system of 6+, 9+, 12+, and 16+, and which this year added in two more classifications 14+ and 18+. They’ve certainly gone for fractional fittings!
Submissions to the Review have now closed. Neville Stevens, who has carriage of the review, is due to report in April.
Let’s hope he produces well-fitting boots that are made for safer walking.