You wouldn’t
read about it, but Australia’s major censorship organisation is about
to become the first of a number of independent government-funded bodies
to be taken back under Canberra’s control. But what does this decision
means for the future of censorship in this country?

Towards the end of February, the Attorney-General’s Office announced – via a briefly worded press release
that was light on detail – the restructure of Australia’s national
censorship body, the Office of Film and Literature Classification.

Under
the changes, the OFLC’s two independent censorship boards – the
Classification Board and the Classification Review Board – will remain
unchanged, but the policy division of the OFLC will be folded into
Attorney-General Phillip Ruddock’s office.

Crikey understands
that the announcement came as a shock to everyone at the OFLC,
including director Des Clark who, according to one source, nearly broke
down when he announced the decision to staff last month. We tried to
get hold of Clark, but in his own form of censorship we were told he
wouldn’t speak to us.

Censorship has always been a contentious
area of government regulation, and this latest move gives the
government much more direct control over the censorship guidelines
which both boards use to decide what movies, books, magazines, video
games that Australians can access.

Since the Censorship Act
came into effect in the mid-90s, the process of reviewing and updating
the guidelines has been a role for the OFLC – and was kept at arm’s
length from any government department. Under the new arrangements, the
Attorney General’s Department will have control over the review and
implementation of the censorship rules.

Meanwhile, Australia’s
next major censorship battle is likely to be over whether to introduce
an R18+ classification for video games – probably when the guidelines
come up for review sometime next year.

Peter Fray

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