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How a rating is decided

The Classification Board makes classification decisions for films, computer games and some publications. The Board classifies content after it has received an application for classification, usually from the distributor of the content.

The Board assesses the film, computer game or publication and makes a classification decision by majority agreement. It does not edit content or ask for content to be changed.

Classification criteria

When making classification decisions, Board members must apply certain criteria. These are set out in Section 11 of the Classification Act, the National Classification Code and the Classification Guidelines for films, computer games and publications.

The Classification Code

The Classification Code requires that classification strike a balance between matters including:

  • enabling adults to choose what they read, hear, see and play
  • respecting people who may not want to see material they find confronting
  • protecting children from inappropriate content

The Classification Act

The Classification Act requires the Board to consider matters including community standards, the nature of the content and whether it has any artistic or educational value, and who the intended audience is.

Classification Guidelines

The Classification Guidelines are a more detailed tool for classifying content. They help explain the different categories and the scope and limits of content suitable for each category.

Classifiable elements

The Board uses 6 elements when making a classification decision:

  • themes
  • violence
  • sex
  • language
  • drug use
  • nudity

Board members assess the impact and context of these elements when deciding a classification rating.

Impact

The impact of a classifiable element depends on the frequency and intensity of content and the overall effect. The purpose and tone of a sequence and how the material is treated can also affect impact.

Impact may be higher where content is:

  • detailed
  • prolonged
  • realistic
  • interactive

Impact may be lower where content is:

  • verbal and not visual
  • incidental and not direct

The level of impact allowed in each classification category:

Category Level of impact
G Very mild
PG Mild
M Moderate
MA 15+ Strong
R 18+ High
RC Very high

Context

Context is closely related to impact and helps determine whether a classifiable element is justified by the storyline. Content that falls into a particular classification category in one context may fall outside it in another. For example, the way in which social issues are dealt with may require a mature or adult perspective.

Consumer advice

When the Board makes a classification decision, it also needs to provide consumer advice.

Consumer advice gives information about the content. It usually describes the classifiable elements which have the highest impact in the content. For example, a film classified PG may have consumer advice of ‘Mild violence and coarse language’.

Reasons for classification decisions

The Board writes a report which explains the reasons it gave a film, computer game or publication a particular rating. You can contact us if you would like a copy of a report for a particular film, computer game or publication. 

You can see reasons for decisions from the Classification Review Board in Review decisions.

Classification tools

Classification tools are algorithms that can generate ratings consistent with the decisions of the Classification Board. Classification tools provide an efficient way to classify the huge volume of films and games available online. They allow distributors and developers to enter information about the content of a film or computer game and quickly and easily receive a classification rating and consumer advice.

Classification tools need to be approved by the Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts. More information on the approval process can be found on our Legislation page.

Two classification tools are used in Australia:

  • The International Age Rating Coalition (IARC) tool
  • The Netflix tool

International Age Rating Coalition (IARC)

The IARC is a partnership of leading computer game ratings authorities from countries across the world including the United States, Canada, most of Europe, Brazil, South Korea and Australia. The IARC tool classifies computer games for online platforms such as Google Play, Microsoft Store, Nintendo e-Shop, Occulus Store and Origin.

Netflix

Australia is the first country in the world to use the Netflix classification tool. The Netflix tool was developed by Netflix in consultation with the Department of Communications and the Arts. It is used to classify films available on Netflix Australia.