Australian Council on Children and the Media

Editorial: Let’s be bold with classification review February 4, 2020


IF OUR classification system is to provide better protections for children, those of us with strong views about what needs to change must be bold in putting them forward in these next few weeks.

But even more importantly, those managing the review need to be bold and willing to make the big changes that will actually make things better for parents and their children.
Over the past two years during which this review has been signalled, it has been suggested to ACCM by government officers, that the public will not tolerate a big change to the classification system: that it would only be possible to add perhaps one extra classification, such as PG-13.
Leaving aside, for now, whether that would even help, ACCM knows that many parents would be strongly supportive of a radical change, with a move to an age-based classification system.
Over 80 per cent of them say they would prefer a system that used categories like G, 6+, 9+, 12+ and 16+, where these categories reflected what the research tells us about impacts of different types of images and portrayals on children at different ages.
The present, G, PG, M and MA15+ are seen as not all that useful. ACCM knows an age-based system has worked successfully in the Netherlands since 2000, and has recently been adopted by Belgium.
A similar child development base underpins the widely adopted Pan European Game Information (PEGI) system for classifying computer games. Now (see below article), the Netherlands has acknowledged the public’s call for even more age-based information, and has added in a 14+ and an 18+. So surely Australians could cope with wider classification changes? The Dutch Kijkwijzer classification system was introduced in 2000 because of the anticipated rapid increase in the volume of material requiring classification, and it is designed to run online. Classifications are produced by industry assessors but they have to use a questionnaire (reflecting a child development approach) developed and reviewed by its scientific committee. The core objective is to provide a system that is effective in protecting children. Australia has persisted with a system based on offence and community standards for too many years. There is a strong need for an online system. There is a demand by parents for more useful age-based information. The critical need is for an assessment tool (questionnaire) that actually protects children. Our present system (or one with bits tacked on) will not meet these needs.The Government needs to GO BOLDLY.