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DCMS publishes Media Literacy Strategy to support positive experiences online

DCMS publishes Media Literacy Strategy to support positive experiences online.

DCMS has published the long-awaited Media Literacy Strategy which aims to support organisations to undertake media literacy activity in a more coordinated, wide reaching, and high-quality way over the next 3 years.

The publication of the DCMS Media Literacy Strategy provides useful insight into the media literacy capabilities of society, while striving to stimulate activity in the UK which both supports online safety and encourages users to make the most of what the internet has to offer.

To go hand in hand with the draft Online Safety Bill, the Media Literacy Strategy shows the Government’s commitment to education and empowerment of all internet users through digital skills and resilience-based initiatives which enable positive experiences online.

Media Literacy Landscape

In the UK, over 170 online platforms, academics, civil society organisations, news organisations and education providers are supporting media literacy, although research by Ipsos Mori and Google provides a range of key stats outlining why media literacy initiatives are still in demand:

  • 55% of users are interested in learning more about how to use tools to distinguish between true and false information
  • only 9% of users had participated in media literacy training related to misinformation and disinformation
  • 66% believed that it would be appropriate for internet and technology companies to provide training to improve users’ critical thinking
  • 61% of users felt they would be most interested in learning online

What is the Media Literacy Strategy?

The Media Literacy Strategy is ‘intended to complement, not duplicate, the existing media literacy landscape’ through the acknowledgement that government can have the greatest impact by working with the sector to improve and increase activity.  

The Strategy includes a principles-based framework, a set of strategic sector priorities and an overview of the cross-sector challenges. This contributes towards four key ambitions:

  1. Set out a strategic direction for the future of media literacy in the UK
  2. Ensure a coordinated approach to media literacy activity
  3. Address key gaps within the media literacy landscape
  4. Reduce barriers and create opportunities for organisations undertaking media literacy activity

Media Literacy Framework

The Media Literacy Framework is one part of the Strategy which highlights 5 principles supporting media literacy capabilities and a list of actions which online platforms could take to promote and stimulate media literacy.  

  • Principle 1 – users should understand the risks of sharing personal data online, how that data can be used by others, and are able to take action to protect their privacy online (p. 24)
  • Principle 2 – users should understand how the online environment operates and use this to inform decisions online (p. 28)
  • Principle 3 – users should understand how different content is created and be able to critically analyse the content they consume (p.32)
  • Principle 4 – users should understand that actions online have consequences offline and use this understanding in their online interactions (p.35)
  • Principle 5 – users should be able to participate in online engagement and contribute to making a positive environment whilst undertaking the risks of engaging with others (p. 38)

Strategic Sector Priorities

There are 8 'Strategic Sector Priorities' listed in the Strategy which range from cross-sector collaboration to taking action to promote political literacy and investing more in promoting media literacy to their users both in terms of ‘literacy by design’ choices and in person.

Under these priorities, it is outlined how 'good platform design can strengthen media literacy through the inclusion of features which support users to make more informed decisions', with reference to the efforts of online platforms to combat misinformation and disinformation through a range of techniques including prompts and nudges. 

techUK is pleased to see reference to the ongoing efforts to combat misinformation and disinformation within the Strategy and we firmly support the strategic priorities including the need to enhance collaboration across sectors and achieve the maximum positive impact on society. 

Media Literacy Challenges

The Strategy outlines six cross-sector challenges to supporting media literacy including evaluation, funding, hard-to-reach audiences, vulnerable users, building audience resilience to disinformation and coordination.

To address these challenges, the Government has published an annual Media Literacy Action Plan which is found in Annex B of the Media Literacy Strategy (p. 106). This Plan will be initially funded with £340k from the 2021/22 financial year and includes setting up a media literacy taskforce, creating an online portal, upskilling librarians and developing media literacy communications campaigns.

How does this strategy link to the draft Online Safety Bill?

The Media Literacy Strategy is a voluntary non-binding document which sits alongside the draft Online Safety Bill but is not part of it.

Ofcom will have powers under the new legislation to promote media literacy which will build on existing provision in the Communications Act 2003, although these powers will not come into effect until the legislation is implemented which could be several years away.

In the meantime, the Government is committed to addressing some of the challenges identified in the Media Literacy Strategy through its annual Media Literacy Action Plans.

What does techUK think?

Enhancing digital skills and empowering users to be more resilient to potential online risks could not be more important to enable positive online experiences and techUK is delighted to see the publication of the Media Literacy Strategy.

We must now put in efforts to ensure that this Strategy remains a top priority alongside the draft Online Safety Bill as this will be crucial to create a balanced approach which does not undermine online opportunity for society.

techUK members have several successful initiatives in place supporting media literacy and digital skills and collectively we look forward to continuing our work in partnership with DCMS, Ofcom and a range of NGOs to enhance our efforts to create safer online spaces for society.


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