In an important step forward in fixing Australia’s broken classification system, the Senate has voted to conduct an inquiry into the National Classification Scheme for film, literature and other forms of media.

Liberal Senator Guy Barnett yesterday successfully moved a motion which will see the Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee conduct an inquiry into the Australian film and literature classification scheme, reporting back by June 30 next year.

The inquiry is to particularly focus on issues such as: the enforcement system; the effectiveness of the scheme in preventing the sexualisation of children; the classification and impact of R18+ and X18+ films; the possibility of including outdoor advertising (such as billboards) in the classification scheme; the application of the scheme to music videos; and the effectiveness of the scheme in dealing with new technologies and new media.

ACL has been calling for a comprehensive review of the classification system for years and strongly welcomes the Senate inquiry.

The current system is clearly not working and, among other things, has led to a toxic media culture which is having a devastating impact on vulnerable young people. As they grow up they are being bombarded with sexual messages via everything from billboards to films to music videos.

Among other failings in the current classification system, there has also been clear evidence to show that the system is incapable of preventing unclassified pornography from becoming easily available for sale in stores across Australia – with call-in notices being unenforced.

In the lead up to the recent Federal election, ACL sought commitments from both Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott for a comprehensive review of Australia’s media environment, with both leaders voicing their concerns about the sexualisation of children in the media. Ms Gillard reaffirmed her support for ISP filtering and Mr Abbott specifically acknowledged the need for another review of the media classification system “tasked with a way to ensure proper community standards apply to all media”.

ACL hopes that the Senate Committee will be able thoroughly investigate the wide array of concerning classification issues and that its recommendations will receive bipartisan support – providing a basis for establishing an effective classification system across all media.