Australia/ 5.3 Sector specific legislation  

5.3.8 Other areas of relevant legislation

Film and internet censorship

Given its powers, under the terms of the Australian Constitution, to make laws governing broadcasting and communications, the Commonwealth government has responsibility for the legal framework governing online services and the importation or export of audio-visual material, including computer games.  Under the auspices of this constitutional framework, the Commonwealth introduced a Film Censorship Board to which, from 1949, the states and territories gradually delegated their censorship powers.  The role of the board was to examine imported films and videotapes and to register and classify films and videotapes for public exhibition, both on behalf of the states and territories in accordance with their own legislation, and on behalf of the ABC and of the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal.  In 1983, the Commonwealth and all states and territories agreed on a uniform scheme of classification for publications and videotapes, which would be implemented through the Film Censorship Board.  After long and protracted negotiations, the Commonwealth introduced the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995 which contained a single National Classification Code, seeing out the principles to be followed in the classification of material.  At the same time the Film Censorship Board was replaced by the Classification Board, which has responsibility for the classification of films, videotapes, publications and computer games.  Further information on the Classification Board is at

The most contentious area within the classification field has been that of non-violent erotica, which has caused ongoing debate particularly related to film and video and, increasingly, online publication.  However, there have also been some celebrated recent cases of banning of certain books (for example, those dealing with the practicalities of voluntary euthanasia, or extreme erotica).  Various attorney-general departments in states and territories also been involved in some controversies involving the visual arts, such as that surrounding the exhibition of the Serrano work Piss Christ at the National Gallery of Victoria in 1997.  The work, no stranger to controversy, initially sustained verbal attacks from various churches but was finally removed from display following by a physical attack on the work by two young men.

In 2009 the Commonwealth government introduced what are described as ‘cyber-safety measures’ which introduced mandatory ISP-level filtering of ‘refused classification–rated content’, and a grants program to assist ISP providers to block additional content when requested by households.  This is part of an ongoing debate regarding internet censorship which has, at times, had trouble maintaining the balance between, in the Government’s words, ‘safety for families and the benefits of the digital revolution’.

Application of Code 4 of the Commercial Radio Codes of Practice to digital radio

Commercial radio in Australia operates under the authority of the Australian Communications and Media Authority (see section  The industry operates under a series of codes that deal with issues not part of the license conditions, through its arm Commercial Radio Australia.

Code 4 is described as implementing ‘the object, set forth in the Broadcasting Services Act 1992, of promoting the role of broadcasting services in developing and reflecting a sense of Australian identity, character and diversity, by prescribing minimum content levels of Australian music’.  This aspiration was converted into minimum quotas for the broadcast of Australian music on commercial free-to-air services, as set out in the code: 

However, a review of the code by Commercial Radio Australia in 2010 proposed that the requirements will not apply to new digital services, and the Australian music industry has expressed concern that, given the move to digital and ultimate switch-off of analogue, this will be to the detriment of Australian music and to the original intentions of the Broadcasting Services Act.  The revised code was approved by ACMA in July 2010.


Chapter published: 27-12-2013