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How does the OFLC define offensive and what reasonable community standards are - how often do these terms and guidelines get reviewed?
I'll give you the definition from Guidelines for the Classification of Publications, September 1999. "Offensive: Material which causes outrage or extreme disgust. The Guidelines distinguish between material which may offend some sections of the adult community, and material which offends against generally accepted standards, and is therefore likely to offend most people."
I'm not sure how they decide what "generally accepted standards" or even "reasonable community standards" are. I would imagine that's a very difficult thing to judge. I wouldn't like to have to guess at it. My friends tend to be fairly open-minded, so I probably have a distorted view of what "generally accepted standards" are. The guidelines get reviewed every few years (before the 1999 guidelines, the previous set of guidelines was drawn up in 1992). When they're reviewed, there's a call for submissions from the public. Last time there were 147 submissions, a lot of them from religious groups or from people who blamed porn for all of society's problems. This was used as justification for bringing in tighter restrictions. Obviously this system is flawed. The average person isn't going to make a submission to the government - even if they do enjoy reading Penthouse.
In your opinion does the OFLC act as a political tool for the government of the day rather than a reflection of the contemporary population's views? How could this be improved?
A lot of people want to blame John Howard for the OFLC's decisions, but I don't know whether things would be very different under a Labor government. There are very strong conservative forces in both major parties at the moment, as well as some vocal conservative independents, and that's why a lot of censorship rulings don't reflect the contemporary population's views. To me, the solution is to get an independent organisation to do some proper community consultation and come up with a new set of guidelines that would, I would hope, be less restrictive than the current ones. If we could get rid of the ban on fetishes in X-rated videos, the ban on genital detail (ie, inner labia) in sex magazines and a few other things like that, then no matter how conservative the people appointed to the OFLC board are (and John Howard does get a say on that), they couldn't do too much harm.
"In the Realm of the Censors" included a series of discussions in Sydney in 2004. These are some hastily scribbled notes from one of those discussions.
posted by Bob Bain