THERE will be one national ratings regime for classifying movies, TV programs, magazines and websites, and one regulator to enforce the rules, under a new scheme proposed by the Australian Law Reform Commission.
In overhauling the ''dysfunctional'' rules that apply now, it wants a single set of ratings, including new categories aimed at children and teenagers.
It wants the federal government to take complete control of classification and censorship, rather than the existing combination of federal and state rules, which led to X18+ material banned from every state and pay TV, but legally traded on DVD in Canberra and Darwin.
The commission's discussion paper released yesterday said there is confusion among parents about what the PG, M and MA15+ classifications mean, and proposes to unify the three regimes for film and games, TV, and print into one, which includes a C, aimed at children, and T13+, aimed at teenagers.
It will keep G, for general audiences, and add an age to the parental guidance recommended classification, becoming PG8+.
The paper admits that with a trillion or so websites, there is far too much material online for a government agency to classify, but says there is strong public demand for guidance for films, TV programs and games. Under the new regime, the regulator will concentrate on classifying films for release in cinemas and high-impact games.
Other films, programs and low-level games will be self-assessed by industry, with appeals to the regulator. Books, magazines and websites will not need to be classified - unless they are likely to be X18+ or RC, refused classification.
The government's plan for internet filtering of RC material is delayed until after the commission's final report. It recommends any RC decision should state if material is banned for showing actual child sexual abuse or actual sexual violence and added to the filtering blacklist.
The commission did not say if X18+ material should be able to be sold in the states, but has begun a study of public attitudes to what should be covered by MA15+, which allows implied sex and violence justified by context, R18+, which allows violence or simulated sex, X18+ which allows real sex but no violence, and RC.
Film festivals would be exempt but still required to exclude children from R18+ films.