Insights Media Literacy: Ofcom publishes consultation on three-year strategy


Ofcom has published a consultation on its Media Literacy Strategy for the next three years. It follows recent research into the experiences of adults and children online (commented upon here) which provided valuable insights into what steps need to be taken so that Ofcom can fulfil its duty to promote media literacy (defined in the consultation as “the ability to use, understand and create media and communications across multiple formats and services”).

The consultation stresses that improvements to media literacy will not come about by Ofcom’s interventions alone. The Group Director of Strategy and Research, Yih-Choung The, states that “media literacy must be the responsibility of everyone – online platforms in particular, but also parents, educators, third-sector organisations, providers of health and social care, professionals working with children, and others”. The consultation reflects this view by not only including steps that Ofcom intends to take, but also what steps that it expects others – and in particular online platforms – to take. Ofcom sees its role as acting as a “convener-catalyst, working with key stakeholders to drive evidence-based best practice and amplify outcomes”.

Ofcom makes clear that a critical part of any media literacy strategy is conducting appropriate research so as to understand and measure what works, and it commits to do just that. It states that it will continue to listen to a wide range of groups about their experiences online and in particular how they encounter harmful activity and mis/disinformation. This research will be shared with relevant stakeholders so as to form the basis of best-practice guidance and shape more effective interventions.

In turn, Ofcom expects platforms to “prioritise interventions supporting media literacy and be more transparent about their design and outcomes”. In particular, it states that it is interested in exploring how platforms can support users at different points in the ‘user journey’ and provide additional context in relation to certain content. Specific content of concern includes mis/disinformation, harmful content that disproportionately affects women and girls, protection of personal information, and content of democratic importance. Ofcom will also consider the impact on children of ‘persuasive design’ such as autoplay or infinite scrolling. Platforms will also be expected to promote, support and fund media literacy programmes for their users, as well as evaluate the impact of their interventions and share the results of their own research so as to foster what Ofcom describes as a “culture of shared learnings”.

Ofcom will also focus on what can be done by organisations other than platforms to improve media literacy. The consultation states that Ofcom is “committed to convening media literacy practitioners and others working in related areas or with key communities, creating opportunities for them to share expertise and learn from others”. In practice, this will mean Ofcom identifying particular topics or audiences that would benefit from intervention and working with partner organisations to empower users and improve media literacy.

The consultation is open until 24 June 2024, and can be read in full here.