THE classification system which regulates violent and sexual content should be made consistent across all media, a report handed down yesterday has found.
The only exceptions would be news and current affairs content, which is already exempt from classification laws.
The Australian Law Reform Commission conducted the first review of the country's classification laws in 20 years, which it likened to ''an analogue piece of legislation in a digital world''.
''The globalisation of media platforms, content and services [is] making nationally based regulations more difficult to apply,'' the report found.
It recommended a new ''platform neutral'' regulatory model be introduced, which would apply the same standards to classifiable content.
At the moment, publications, films and computer games are subject to the Classification Act and state and territory classification enforcement legislation.
Online and mobile content are regulated under one part of the Broadcasting Services Act, and broadcast and pay TV content under another.
However, the commission also found that the sheer volume of media available to consumers would make the task of classifying all content nearly impossible. It said there were more than 1trillion websites, hundreds of thousands of apps for smartphones and tablets and more than 60 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute - a monumental task for regulators.
''As it is impractical to expect all media content to be classified in Australia, the scope of what must be classified should be confined to feature films, television programs and higher-level computer games.''
The ALRC commissioner, Terry Flew, said YouTube was a good example of post-release classification working well, with Google removing objectionable videos after viewers logged complaints.
But, he said, the question of how to cope with the sheer volume of online content, which transcended national borders, was a question regulators were grappling with worldwide.
''Australia needs a new classification scheme that applies consistent rules to media content on all platforms - in cinemas, on television, on DVDs and on the internet,'' he said. ''But the scheme also needs to be flexible, so it can adapt to new technologies and the challenges of media convergence.''
The commission president, Rosalind Croucher, said many submissions to the review raised concerns about the Refused Classification standard, which the commission says no longer accords with community standards. For example, material considered to incite, promote or instruct crime could be refused classification and banned.
''There needs to be a better alignment with community standards,'' Professor Croucher said. ''The essence of a classification system is that it is anchored in community standards.''
The report also recommended:
Classification laws to affect feature films, television programs and computer games that are both made and distributed on a commercial basis, and likely to have a significant Australian audience.
More work be done to canvass community standards, ''with a clear role for the Classification Board in making independent classification decisions that reflect community standards''.
The Attorney-General, Nicola Roxon, said the government would consider the report.