UK Government Casts Regulator as Educator

04 November 2004

'Media literacy' - whatever that means - is the latest Tony-task devised to occupy Ofcom, the UK government's media regulator which opened its portals in January.

Media literacy? Ofcom defines the modish term as "the ability to access, understand and create communications in a variety of contexts". Something the regulator might assimilate by spending a typical day in the traffic control department of the average ad agency or newspaper.

Section 11 of the Communications Act 2003 requires Ofcom to "bring about a better public understanding of the nature and characteristics of material published by means of electronic media". The body plans to achieve this via ...

  • Research
    A wide ranging research programme will be undertaken to assess the extent of media literacy in the UK. It will also seek to identify the issues and priorities for developing greater media literacy skills both amongst adults and children, as well as identifying the needs of different sections of society.

  • Universal labelling
    The development of a common labelling system to support greater consistency in presenting information related to possible harm and offence and to protect young and vulnerable people from inappropriate material.

  • Challenging content
    Ofcom plans to create a cross-platform working group comprising, among others, the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Five, BSkyB, the British Board of Film Classification, major internet service providers, cellphone operators et al. This heterogenous group will investigate how viewers prefer to receive information about challenging content, particularly in homes with digital television.

    The regulator will also seek other opportunities to spark debate on media literacy issues, while at the same time supporting related and relevant work undertaken by other organisations.

    Data sourced from Ofcom (UK); additional content by WARC staff