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How a rating is decided

Making a rating

The Classification Board, Classification Review Board and approved classification tools can make classification decisions for films, computer games and publications.

The Classification Board and the Classification Review Board classify content on application, usually from the distributor of the content. Approved classification tools use logic rules and algorithms to classify content.

Classification decisions include a rating and consumer advice for the content.

Classification criteria

Decisions must be guided by:

The National Classification Code requires decisions give effect to these principles:

  • adults should be able to read, hear, see and play what they want
  • minors should be protected from material likely to harm or disturb them
  • everyone should be protected from unsolicited material they find offensive
  • the need to take account of community concerns about violence, sexual violence and the portrayal of persons in a demeaning manner.

The classification guidelines explain the type of content allowed within each classification category (rating).

Classifiable elements

The guidelines include 6 classifiable elements. These are:

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

The Classification Board, Classification Review Board, and approved classification tools assess the impact and context of these elements to decide the rating and consumer advice.

Impact

The impact depends on the frequency, intensity and the overall effect of the content. The purpose, tone and style can affect impact.

Impact may increase where depictions are:

  • detailed
  • prolonged
  • realistic
  • interactive.

Impact may be lower where content is:

  • implied rather than depicted
  • not detailed
  • short in duration
  • verbal and not visual
  • incidental and not direct.

The level of impact allowed in each classification category (rating):

Rating Impact level
G Very mild
PG Mild
M Moderate
MA 15+ Strong
R 18+ High
RC Very high

Context

Context determines whether the storyline justifies content. Content that falls into a particular rating in one context may fall outside it in a different context.

For example, the way the content deals with social issues may require a mature or adult perspective. Historical context may also justify certain depictions.

Consumer advice

Under section 20 of the Act, a classification decision must include consumer advice.

Consumer advice gives information about the content. It usually describes the classifiable elements with the greatest impact.

For example, a film classified PG may have consumer advice of 'Mild violence and coarse language'. This means that the film is PG because the violence and coarse language are mild in impact.

Other elements may be:

  • present at a lower impact level, or
  • present at the same impact level, but linked to violence or coarse language.

You can learn more about classification decisions by searching the National Classification Database in the search bar at the top of this page.

Reasons for a decision

The Classification Board writes a report for every piece of classified content. The report explains the reasons why the Classification Board gave that rating and consumer advice to the content.

Contact us if you would like a copy of a Classification Board report. Please note that we may charge a fee.

You can find Classification Review Board decisions on the review decisions page.