Irish citizens only semi-media literate

2 Apr 2009

Irish citizens have only a vague understanding of interactive media, and this understanding varies by age, interest and access to technology and infrastructure, a report claims.

A research report commissioned by the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland (BCI) and carried out by the Dublin Institute of Technology’s Centre for Social and Educational Research (CSER) has made a series of recommendations regarding the development of public policy for media literacy in Ireland.

A key part of the research undertaken by the CSER was to seek public attitudes toward media literacy in Ireland. In a series of focus groups, the researchers found that the level of skills and experience with different types of media varied greatly.

Levels of experience with new interactive media – interactive television, internet participation in virtual communities – also varied considerably depending on age, interest, and access to technology and infrastructure.

The report described the Irish public’s attitude to quality and accuracy of media content as “only an informal awareness”.

Similarly, the research underscored a limited understanding of issues of media ownership and control and its implications for citizens and consumers.

“It is clear that media literacy is something that affects everyone,” the report’s co-author Dr Brian O’Neill said.

“We all need to be more media literate to make sense of the major changes happening in today’s information-rich world. Teachers and educators have a major role to play, but media industries must also play their part in ensuring there is a better public understanding of the issues and challenges.”

The report makes a series of recommendations, including the establishment of an Irish media literacy expert group to advise on definitions, strategies and new developments in relation to media literacy.

The report also stresses the importance of a partnership approach and the involvement of a diverse range of interests as key to the successful implementation of media literacy promotion.

It argues that media literacy education needs to encompass both formal education settings, as well as a host of adult learning environments. 

“The research undertaken by the CSER and funded by the BCI clearly outlines the importance of having a clear definition and understanding of what media literacy is from a policy development perspective,” said Michael O’Keeffe, chief executive of the BCI.

“One of the major challenges facing the BCI will be in determining degrees of media literacy, in order to develop an integrated approach to its promotion in Ireland.

“It will be important for the BCI to ensure that as new services and platforms develop, so too will the requirement for measures to be put in place to ensure that consumers and users are informed and better enabled to cope in an increasingly complex and dynamic environment,” O’Keefe said.

By John Kennedy