Ofcom publishes media literacy audit

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Ofcom has published the results of a survey assessing the extent of media literacy in the UK. It finds that media platforms are seen mainly in 'traditional' terms, with little widespread recognition of their wider digital functions.

Ofcom, as telecommunications regulator, is obliged by the Communications Act of 2003 to promote media literacy in the UK. It defines media literacy as the ability to access, understand and create communications in a variety of contexts.

The survey of 3,244 respondents found that television was the most familiar media platform, with most people being aware of the watershed and how particular channels are funded. But the research shows that TV is still being used in a largely traditional way, with only 30 per cent of those with digital TV having made use of the interactive features.

Seventy-seven percent of respondents had access to digital radio services, but one third were unaware that they could access the services through their digital TV or the internet. Only 27 per cent of all respondents had ever listened to digital radio, but of these, 68 per cent said they now listened to more radio stations.

Most people who used the internet said they did so in order to access information, while almost 75 per cent of internet users used email at least weekly.

Age was found to be a significant indicator of the extent and types of media literacy. Mobile phones were seen to be a pervasive media technology for the 16 to 24 age group, while those aged 65 and over appeared to have significantly lower levels of media literacy than other age groups.

With regard to mobile phones, the 16 to 24 age group was found to be comfortable with the wider functionality of the devices, while older users tended to use them mostly for communication.

According to the research, levels of concern about content vary across platforms, with there being little concern over mobile phone content and more concern over internet content. A sizeable minority of internet users were found not to be confident about blocking viruses or email scams.

Many people, especially the elderly, said they preferred to learn media skills from family and friends or by themselves, rather than in formal groups. The highest area of interest for many people was in learning how to use the internet, the survey said. One third of people said they were interested in learning more about digital platforms and services.

See: The Ofcom report (89-page / 1.2MB PDF)

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