Media Content, Regulation and Convergence: It’s Time To Grow Up

This week in BCM310 we looked at media policy and content regulation in Australia.

My area of interest in the topic of media regulation surrounds the introduction of an ‘R18+’ category for games.

The National Classification Code (2005) states the following:

 “(a) adults should be able to read, hear, see and play what they want”

However, until January 2013, an ‘R18+’ classification for video games did not exist. In 2010 the Attorney-General’s Department published a ‘Final Report (2010) which summarised the findings of public submissions made in response to a discussion paper released in 2009.

I believe a good way of framing this issue is to take a look at the perspectives of the key stakeholders.

Computer game retailers were in favour of the ‘R18+’ classification as they were unable to stock games that were refused classification, including many popular titles. Managing Director of ‘EB Games’ Steve Wilson indicated that the classification issue was continuing to ‘cripple our industry and cost local jobs’  (EB Games 2010). It is interesting to note that ‘EB Games’ was responsible for collecting 34,210 submissions for the Attorney-General from their customers (Final Report, 2010), through an in-store and online campaign.

Australian gamers want unrestricted access to all games. AusGamers, an online Australian gaming community, declared their support of the ‘R18+’ classification by stating:

Australians are capable of making responsible choices about what games we play and what games we allow our children to play’  (AusGamers 2010)

Numerous organisations presented submissions that identified research which suggests that video games cause violence and aggression in game players. These parties expressed concern about the ‘effects of simulated violence on children’ (Final Report 2010, pg 17)

The Presbyterian Church believes that it is more important for children to be protected against harmful material than adults having unlimited access to media (Final Report 2010, pg 19).

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The Attorney-General’s report also notes the challenges that technological convergence has for the classification of media content. The Convergence Review (2012) directly addresses this issue, noting that our current policy and regulations have not modernised to acknowledge the dilution of boundaries between media technologies.

The AIMIA (Digital Industry Association for Australia) also identified that:

“It is becoming increasingly difficult to differentiate between various types of media, as the distinctions between them continue to blur as a result of technological advances and what is termed ‘convergence” (AIMIA 2010)

I agree that this convergence culture has made the need for a new Classification Scheme undeniable.  Allowing the ‘R18+’ classification is a positive step in the right direction, but the ultimate goal should be a system which can be applied consistently and meaningfully across media platforms. Importantly, the Classification system must be ‘sufficiently flexible to be adaptive to technological change’ (Flew 2012, pg 14)

But can such an effective and dynamic system ever be achieved whilst simultaneously balancing the interests of stakeholders?

Thanks for reading,

Katie

 

References:

  • AIMIA 2010, ‘AIMIA submission on R18+ classification for computer games’, 24 February 2010, viewed 27 March 2013 via here.
  • Attorney-General’s Department 2010, ‘Final Report on the Public Consultation on the Possible Introduction of an R 18+ Classification for Computer Games’ Attorney-General, accesse 27 March 2013 via here.
  • AusGamers 2010, ‘EFA and AusGamers R18+ Submission’, 28 February 2010, viewed 27 March 2013 via here.
  • Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy 2012, ‘Convergence Review – Interim Report’, DBCDE, accessed 28 March 2013 via here.
  • EB Games 2010, ‘The time to be heard is now: EB Games launches R18+ Classification Petition, accessed 27 March 2013 via here.
  • Flew, T (2012), ‘Media Classification: Content regulation in an age of convergent media’, Media International Australia incorporating Culture and Policy, no. 143, pp 5-15
  • National Classification Code 2005, ComLaw, viewed 27 March 2013 via here.
  • Image sourced from here.

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