Danny Yee >> Internet Censorship in Australia >> Analysis of 1999 Legislation

The Internet is not Television


The government's Internet censorship Bill takes as a premise that the Internet is a form of television. This betrays a fundamental confusion about the Internet.

The Principles Underlying the Legislation

An underlying assumption of the Bill is that the Internet is a form of broadcasting, akin to television. This is apparent both from the choice of the Film and Video classification system for Internet content and the decision to give jurisdiction to the Australian Broadcasting Authority.

In the explanatory memorandum accompanying the Bill we find:

the Government has decided that proscriptions will include RC and X rated material, plus R-rated material that is not protected by adult verification systems. The Government considers that this benchmark is appropriate to ensure consistency with regulation of subscription broadcasting and narrowcasting services based on the premise that access to online services is less discretionary than access to conventional content in hard copy form. It also recognises the growing influence of online content in Australia, particularly in relation to the ease of children's access to the Internet who may access it in the home or school, often without adult supervision.

While the Government recognises that technology for delivery of video online is currently limited, for example by the availability of bandwidth, this decision also takes into account developing technological convergence which means that online services will become more and more akin to broadcasting and therefore warrant a higher level of regulation.'


Broadcasting and Convergence

Broadcast-style 'push' technology has only a minor role online and user selection will continue to dominate Internet content delivery. It may be that convergence will see television merge with the Internet, but this is a long way from happening. Moreover, many people believe that convergence will result in television becoming more like the Internet rather than vice versa.

At one point the memorandum says:

The definition of "Internet content" excludes information transmitted in the form of a broadcasting service.
So it appears that Internet content has to be regulated as strictly as broadcasting even though broadcasting services are excluded from the category!

Discretionary Access

Access to online content is in fact highly discretionary, arguably more so than access to printed materials. Books and magazines can be and are left lying around public places such as trains, parks, and even schools. This is not possible with Net content.

Access to online content is certainly far more discretionary than access to television or radio.

The only extent to which web access is not discretionary is in the choice of start-up page, which is typically configured by the computer administrator or vendor, or defaults to the browsers default page. The browser default pages are innocuous, as are the default pages of major computer vendors.

Film or Publication?

It is unlikely, due to bandwidth constraints, that significant amounts of streaming video will be delivered over the Net in the near future, especially with the high prices for bandwidth in Australian vv the United States. The vast bulk of online content will continue to be text and graphics, and rating this as if it were video will result in many anomalies.

In particular, the application of a classification scheme designed for films and videos to textual materials is likely to result in books sold without any restrictions at all in bookshops being "prohibited" online!


  1. Broadcasting is the distribution method for only a tiny fraction of Internet content. It is not, therefore, reasonable to regulate the Internet as a form of broadcasting.

  2. Application of the Film and Video classification scheme to Internet content is totally ludicrous.

Analysis of 1999 Legislation << Internet Censorship in Australia << Danny Yee