Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Censorship in Australia
Australia, like all countries, has rules that restrict or ban the production, sale, and distribution of some creative works, including books, magazines, movies, television, computer games, web site content, live theatre, music and other forms. Although non-regulated, censorship also occurs to the creative arts.
2.1 Television, Video, Feature Films
- Lady Chatterley and the trial book.
- censorship of live theatre.
- introduction of OFLC in the 1970s.
- gradual relaxation of guidelines.
- relatively relaxed attitudes of Australian network television relative to other countries such as the United States.
As of 2005, Australia's censorship regime is largely the purview of the Australian Office of Film and Literature Classification, a Federal Government body. All feature films, videos, television shows (exempting news, current affairs, and documentaries), computer games, and some magazines (those that contain sexual content) for commercial release are required to be submitted to this body, made up of "community representatives" appointed by the government for two-year (??) terms. Some films (those made for educational or training purposes, for instance) are exempt from classification under certain conditions. In addition, film festivals may screen films that haven't been classified as long as they restrict entry to those 18 and over.
Television, Video, Feature Films
The classification system for visual content is largely standardised for television, videos, and feature films. The current guidelines, which have changed relatively little over the past few years, may be summarised as follows:
- The "G" rating indicates material that is for general exhibition. Amongst other guidelines, Violence must "have a low threat and be justified by context", sexual activity, and drug use may only be "very discreetly implied", and coarse language must be "very mild and infrequent". Some examples of material that are classified "G" include Neighbours, Home and Away, most Disney animated films, and the 1995 BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. Most episodes of situation comedies Frasier, The Nanny or The Simpsons meet the classification, sometimes with minor edits.
- The "PG" rating recommends parental guidance for persons under 15 years, but places no restrictions on them viewing the material. It is more relaxed in all categories. Examples of material classified "PG" include A Mighty Wind, Attack of the Clones, The West Wing. Material in this category can contain some of the milder four-letter words, include, for instance, "shit".
- "M" rated material is recommended for persons over 15 years. At this classification level, language is relatively free, and sexual innuendo is freely thrown around (and sex may be "discreetly" visually implied), and there is somewhat more violence present. Drug use can be depicted in context. Examples of material classified "M" include NYPD Blue, Austin Powers, The Matrix, and Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle.
- "MA": People under 15 are not permitted to view "MA" rated material without their guardian's permission. It can contain strong violence if justified by context, strong implication of sexual activity, much coarse language (though "very coarse language" should be infrequent), and "strong themes". Examples of films rated "MA" include Saving Private Ryan, Traffic, and 24 Hour Party People.
- "R": People under 18 are not permitted to view "R"-rated material, and it is not permitted to be broadcast on free-to-air television. "R"-rated material can contain virtually anything. The only major restrictions are that sexual violence must be "justified by context", and sexual activity can only be "realistically simulated" rather than be actual.
- "X": like R, restricted to people over 18. X-rated videos can contain actual sexual activity. However, all activity must involve only adults (both in terms of the performers' age and the perceived age of the characters), not demean any of the participants, and must not involve the depiction of "sexual fetishes such as golden showers, application of candle wax , spanking, or fisting".
Any film that does not meet the above guidelines for any category is "Refused Classification" and the distribution and exhibition of such carries heavy maximum penalties involving, potentially, both fines and jail.
Australian commercial network television screens only G-rated material from 3:30 until 7:30 p.m., up to PG-rated until 8:30 p.m., and only M-rated until 9:30 p.m. R-rated material is never shown on broadcast television in Australia. In practice, Australian television is considerably more relaxed about sex and coarse language than American networks.
On subscription television, some channels have been able to carry R-rated material; the foreign-language service World Movies frequently carries R-rated movies. General entertainment channel Arena was unable to show the uncut, R-rated version of Reservoir Dogs after promoting it heavily in 1998. Arena eventually decided not to air the movie, claiming they were unable to cut the movie to meet the MA rating.
Enforcement of classification rules is through an agreement between the Federal and the six state and two territory governments, so the state police would be involved in the arrest and prosecution of anybody violating the classification rules.
Television News, Current Affairs and Documentaries
Levels of censorship of books are high in Australia compared to other democratic nations. Although the Office of Film and Literature Classification Guidelines state that "adults should be able to read, hear and see what they want," many books are apparently banned simply because they may offend certain segments of the population. Under particularly frequent attacks are books containing erotica, and those concerning illegal drugs. Enforcement of book bans is sometimes sporadic. In their book TiHKAL, Dr. Alexander and Ann Shulgin state that their earlier work PiHKAL (banned in Australia), was apparently standard issue among police and lawyers attending a court case in which Dr. Shulgin served as an expert witness for the defense. The Melbourne bookstore Polyester Books , which stocks unusual books of many genres, has been raided by police on two occasions for violation of censorship laws. In addition, Australian customs actively seeks and siezes books imported by individuals.
All the states actually go further than Commonwealth law requires and (theoretically) ban the sale of X-rated material, though possessing it and ordering it from elsewhere is quite legal. Therefore, all legal sale of X-rated material in Australia occurs by mail order from Canberra in Australian Capital Territory. In practice, it is widely believed that many sex shops carry extensive stocks of X-rated videos illegally; state police have shown no inclination to stop the trade.
Restrictions on the "X" category of videos were tightened in 2000 (including the restrictions on portrayal of fetishes, and of actors who appear to be minors), after failed attempts by the Howard government to ban the category entirely, and then replace it with a new "NVE" category which would have had similar restrictions. Pornographic material is openly sold in adult bookstores in the state of Victoria, however legal this practice might be.
In practice, it is likely that many consumers of material of the banned material simply switched to the Internet to obtain it.
Australia's laws on internet censorship are, theoretically, amongst the most restrictive in the Western world. However, the restrictive nature of the laws has been combined with almost complete disinterest in enforcement from the agencies responsible for doing so. Some of the interesting exceptions include an attempt by then NSW Police Minister Michael Costa to shut down Melbourne Indymedia, a case in 2001, involving the US Secret Service that was eventually pleaded out and an attempt by the FBI using the Australian Federal Police to censor a Victorian they alleged was posting threats to the USA.
A collection of both federal and state laws apply, but the most important is the federal legislation which came into effect on January 1, 2000. Under this regime, if a complaint is issued about material "on the internet" the Australian Broadcasting Authority is empowered to examine the material under the guidelines for film and video. If the material would be classified R or X and the site does not have an adult verification system, or would be refused classification, and is hosted in Australia, the ABA is empowered to issue a "takedown notice" under which the material must be removed from the site. If the site is hosted outside Australia, the site is added to a list of banned sites. This list of banned sites is then added to filtering software, which must be offered to all consumers by their Internet Service Providers. Consumers are not required to install such filtering software.
Controversy in the early 1990s over games like Doom and Mortal Kombat saw the introduction of a classification scheme for video games. The current scheme features ratings of "G", "G8+", "M", and "MA", which correspond to "G", "PG", "M", and "MA" in the movie classifications.
A few computer games have required modification to be sold in Australia, notably Carmageddon, Duke Nukem, Grand Theft Auto III, and Grand Theft Auto:Vice City. This has been the subject of complaint in the gaming community, on the basis that there is no reason why adults should not be able to see content in games that they would see in a film. The various governments concerned seem unlikely to change the policy in the short term, however.
In at least some cases, "cracks" reintroducing the modified behaviour or imagery have circulated widely in the gaming community.
See also: Video game controversy
Since 1996 music has also been subject to classification, although unlike film and video games which are regulated by the OFLC, music is mainly self-regulated by ARIA (the Australian Recording Industry Association) and AMRA (the Australian Music Retailers' Association). However in recent times ARIA has tightened these classifications under controversial and bizarre circumstances.
It occurred during 2002 when a small band of Christian pro-censorship lobbyists started a letter-writing campaign to Australia's (then) Attorney-General Daryl Williams. Despite the fact that this group were the only individuals in Australia to officially complain about the content of music (having written a combined total of approximately 50 letters), Williams responded to their concerns and requested ARIA to "review" their classification scheme. The impression was given by the Attorney-General that if a review didn't occur, the government would take matters into their own hands. As a result, ARIA obligingly increased their classification categories from two to three levels.
The categories under the old Classification Sceme were:
- "Level 1": Under the old classifcation, these recordings were required to carry the label "WARNING: This recording contains explicit language", which had a white background with black text. It has been replaced by the new Level 1, and to a lesser extent the new Level 2 classifications.
- "Level 2": Under the old classifcation, these recordings were required to carry the label "WARNING 18+: This recording contains explicit language and is not recommended for persons under the age of eighteen", which had a white background with red text. It has been replaced by the new Level 2 and Level 3 classifications, with no restriction of sale to individuals under 18 years of age.
- "Level 1": Recordings classed Level 1 carry the label "WARNING: MODERATE Impact coarse language and/or themes", which has a white background with black text. ARIA categorises these recordings as containing "infrequent aggressive or strong coarse language; and/or moderate impact ('impact' means the strength of the effect on the listener) references to drug use, violence, sexual activity or themes".
- "Level 2": Recordings classed Level 2 carry the label "WARNING: STRONG Impact coarse language and/or themes", which has a white background with blue text. ARIA categorises these recordings as containing "frequent aggressive or strong coarse language; and/or strong impact references to or detailed descriptions of drug use, violence, sexual activity or themes".
- "Level 3": Recordings classed Level 3 carry the label "RESTRICTED: HIGH IMPACT THEMES not to be sold to persons under 18 years", which has a white background with red text. This is the equivalent of an R rating in film, and as the label states, sale is restricted to individuals under 18 years of age. ARIA categorises these recordings as "...containing graphic descriptions of drug use, violence, sexual activity or very strong themes, which have a very high degree of intensity and which are high in impact." ARIA also has a Exceeding Level 3 classification — these recordings are banned from sale to the public.
Interestingly, as the classifications are self-regulated, only three recordings have been rated Level 3. Two recordings by US rap/R&B artist Khia — her album Thug Misses and single My Neck, My Back was classified for graphic descriptions of sexual activity, while fellow US rap artist Necro had his album Necro Presents Brutality Part 1 classified for graphic descriptions of violence. As a result, people on both sides of the censorship debate have labelled the new classifications as ridiculous.
An area which the OFLC does have an influence upon music, is in the area of CD/record artwork and published lyrics. US death metal band Cannibal Corpse have had to release their albums in Australia with altered artwork and no printed lyrics, as have Austrian death metal band Pungent Stench, when their notorius album Been Caught Buttering was banned due to the album cover, and imported copies were seized by the Australian Customs Service.
It should be also noted that unlike the United States, satire, and other forms of artistic expression, are not legally protected by Australian law . This was exemplified by Australian industrial/electronica outfit Snog, who were legally not allowed to release their album Third Mall From The Sun in Australia, as the artwork satired the image of McDonald's. However, the band had no legal problems in releasing the album in other countries, including the United States.
There is a danger that the Federal Government may use the term "Giving comfort to the enemy" as a rhetoric to stifle political speeches of their opponents.
In 2004, the Australian Centre for the Moving Image was responsible for the censorship of Australian female artist's work which they had actually comissioned. Videod images of the artist nailing her body to a tree were reduced in quantity and scale for final presentation to the public, against the artist's consent. Other Australian artists have received funding from public funding bodies, only to discover that their works are too controversial to be shown in this country, notably George Gittoes.
Heated debates about classification occur on occasions, however the outright banning of films is quite rare. Since 1995, a total of five films have been banned, a notable example being Salò o le 120 giornate di Sodoma. However, starting in 2000 with the film Romance a new crop of "arthouse" films that feature short scenes of actual sex have begun to attract closer scrutiny and in two controversial cases have been banned. The two banned films are Baise-Moi, a French film about two prostitutes who take violent revenge after being raped, and Ken Park, an American film about teenagers that features a scene of autoerotic asphyxiation, amongst other sexually-explicit scenes.
The banning of Ken Park has attracted considerable media attention and political protest. Prominent movie reviewer Margaret Pomeranz, former host of "The Movie Show" on SBS and now host of At the Movies on the ABC network, was arrested (and later cautioned and released) along with several others after attempting to screen what she described as "a wonderful film" at a hall. Copies of the movie, as of July 2003, are circulating widely on various file sharing networks such as Gnutella, and there have been reports of many private screenings. Tom Gleisner, host of The Panel (a prime-time comedy/panel discussion show), openly admitted on the show that he had downloaded and watched the film.
New South Wales Premier Bob Carr has stated that he thinks that the banning of Ken Park and other films is inappropriate, and his Attorney-General, Bob Debus , will discuss changing the laws with other state Attorneys-General at an upcoming meeting.
- Banned Films, which includes an extensive list of films banned in Australia.
- Underground Media in Australia
- Underground Media
- Office of Film and Literature Classification
- Australia extending censorship to Mobile platforms
- Amir Butler: Why I have changed my mind on anti-vilification laws (An article originally published in The Age newspaper)
- Refused Classification - an online database of media censored or banned in Australia
- Libertus Australia. Maintained by Irene Graham, the executive director of Electronic Frontiers Australia Inc (EFA); a group that opposes government attempts to censor the Internet. 
- Polyester books, stockists of banned and controversial material. 
- Chronology of censorship in Australia and New Zealand 
The contents of this article is licensed from www.wikipedia.org under the GNU Free Documentation License. Click here to see the transparent copy and copyright details