UK media and telecoms regulator Ofcom on Thursday published the results of its latest research into the extent of adult 'media literacy' in the UK.

Defining this somewhat patronizing term as "the ability to access, understand and create communications in a variety of contexts", a total of 3,244 respondents across the UK were interviewed on Ofcom's behalf by Business Geographics.

The research focused on the four main digital platforms - digital TV, digital radio, the internet and cellphones. Analogue TV and radio were included in the survey where relevant.

Among the key findings are:

  • Age is a significant indicator of the extent and types of media literacy, with cellphones a pervasive media technology for the 16-24 age group. Those aged 65 and over have significantly lower levels of media literacy than other age groups.

  • Media platforms are seen mainly in 'traditional' terms; there are few signs yet of a widespread recognition of their wider digital functions.

  • Knowledge of industry funding and regulation across platforms varies. A significant majority of respondents (over 75%) know how the television industry is funded and that it is regulated. Over half of UK adults know how radio is funded and that it is regulated. Two in five internet users know how search engine websites are funded, although this drops to one quarter of UK adults as a whole.

  • Levels of concern about content vary across platforms, with little concern over mobile phone content. Most people are not yet aware of content controls on mobiles. One in three of internet users are not confident about blocking viruses or email scams.

  • Many people, especially the elderly, say they prefer to learn media skills from family and friends, or by themselves rather than in formal groups. The highest area of interest for many people is in learning how to use the internet. One third of people say they are interested in learning more about digital platforms and services.
Ofcom will shortly be publishing further reports on media literacy amongst children, minority ethnic groups, older people, those with a disability, and those in Scotland, Wales and the English regions.

To view the full Ofcom report click here.

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