Effective use of digital communications and media increasingly important for participation in Australian society, research finds

[news release] Appropriate skills and confidence in using new communications and media services are increasingly important for participation in all aspects of Australian society according to research released today by the Australian Communications and Media Authority.ACMA commissioned the report, titled Media Literacy – Concepts, Research and Regulatory Issues, from consultants Dr. Robyn Penman and Associate Professor Sue Turnbull to examine media literacy in consumer education and protection activities. Broadly defined, media literacy means the ability to access, understand and create communications in a variety of contexts.’Promoting media literacy is a really important key to ensuring that Australians are equipped with tools to make informed choices about media and communications services and to enable people to participate effectively in the digital economy,’ said Chris Chapman, ACMA Chairman.’With an increasingly complex array of services and technologies, people need to be confident and skilled in navigating an expanding range and choice of content while at the same time understanding how they might protect themselves and their families from exposure to harmful or inappropriate material. They need to know how to manage security and privacy risks online and be able to make informed decisions between various distribution platforms and competing service providers.’The review provides an impressive historical overview of the academic literature surrounding media literacy in both traditional broadcast and digital media environments and identifies educational and other organisations involved in promoting media literacy in Australia and overseas.Key findings from the research are that:

  • Media literacy, whether in traditional or convergent media contexts, is important for being engaged in society. Effective use of media and communications services is increasingly a prerequisite to broader citizen engagement including access to essential services.
  • While the gap between ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ is narrowing in terms of access to information and communications technologies, there is evidence of a digital ‘use/literacy’ divide associated with socio-economic status, age, workforce participation and household type.
  • The promotion of media literacy is an important prerequisite to effective regulatory intervention designed to protect consumers, particularly for online and mobile services.

An important conclusion of the research is that preparing young people to deal confidently with a range of media in their education, social life or in the workforce should be an increasing focus of media literacy initiatives.The release of the report coincides with ACMA’s participation as a founding member in the International Media Literacy Research Forum being held in London on 14-16 May. ACMA is one of only five institutions worldwide to be invited to join the forum as a founding member.Participation in the forum recognises ACMA’s longstanding activities in protecting and promoting participation in communications and media, through its consumer education and information functions. The forum will share research approaches for examining media and digital literacy issues with regulators and researchers from different countries and better position Australia to identify emerging issues, contribute advice and learn from international developments on media literacy.Media Literacy – Concepts, Research and Regulatory issues is available on ACMA’s website.Media contact: Donald Robertson, ACMA Media Manager, on (02) 9334 7980.


The media literacy literature reviewDr. Robyn Penman and Associate Professor Sue Turnbull were commissioned in May 2007 to examine the implications of media literacy for ACMA. The broad purpose of the study was to inform ACMA of existing research, policy and educational activity that promotes and supports media literacy in Australia and internationally. The media literacy literature review complements other on-going ACMA research aimed at understanding how consumers and audiences access and use media, their interaction with it and the influences that that use of media has on them and on society.Dr Penman is an independent communications consultant and Dr Sue Turnbull is Associate Professor in Media Studies at La Trobe University in Melbourne.ACMA’s media literacy activitiesThe role of ACMA includes provision of information and advice to the community about communications matters and the administration of a range of consumer protection measures. To this end ACMA undertakes a range of community awareness programs, including collaborating with other agencies to raise consumer awareness of products and services available to them.ACMA activities that support or promote media literacy extend to broadcasting, the internet, radiocommunications and telecommunication. They include, but are not limited to:

  • Registration of broadcasting codes of practice that provide for classification systems and consumer advice for television content;
  • Delivery of ACMA’s cybersafety education activities and the provision of information to assist parents, carers, children and teenagers enjoy a safe and productive experience on the internet, including the Cybersmart KidsOnline website;
  • Notification of prohibited content to the providers of software filters;
  • Promotion of co-regulatory initiatives that require community awareness: e.g. the Do Not Call Register and a code of practice for ISPs that requires them to provide each subscriber with one of the filters listed in the code (upon the request of subscribers);
  • Information about spam including the spam reporting tool SpamMATTERS;
  • Information about electromagnetic radiation (EMR) and safety;
  • Information on digital broadcasting and transition from analog to digital television;
  • Security, privacy and safety fact sheets.

International Media Literacy Research ForumThe inaugural meeting of the International Media Literacy Research Forum is being held in London between 14 and 16 May 2008. This conference seeks to understand and share learning about emerging media literacy issues at a global level. It will increase awareness of international developments in media literacy, showcasing the latest research and exploring issues faced by policy makers.ACMA was invited to become a founding member of the forum by the UK communications regulator Ofcom, which is hosting the forum.Apart from Ofcom and ACMA, the other founding members of the forum are the US National Association for Media Literacy Education, the Canadian Association of Media Education Organisations (CAMEO), the Dublin Institute of Technology (Ireland) and the New Zealand Broadcasting Standards Authority.Information about the International Media Forum is available at ofcom.org.uk/theforum/This news release was sourced from the ACMA website at www.acma.gov.au/WEB/STANDARD/pc=PC_311154.

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