ERGA Action Group on Media Literacy report highlights position of NRAs in Europe

By Stephanie Comey and Antje vom Berg, ERGA.

In 2021, for the first time, the European Regulators’ Group for Audiovisual media services (ERGA) established an Action Group on Media Literacy. This reflects the growing role, interest, and responsibilities of National Regulatory Authorities (NRAs) in media literacy (ML).

There were three main objectives for the Action Group’s work:

  • Supporting the European Commission in the development of a ML Toolbox focussing on Video-Sharing Platforms (VSPs) and their ML initiatives/tools/measures, in accordance with the provisions of the European Media and Audiovisual Action Plan
  • Developing a set of criteria for regulators to help identify and qualify best practice ML initiatives, with the hope that the criteria identified would be of use to NRAs in the exercise of their ML-related obligations under the revised Audio-Visual Media Services Directive
  • Finding examples of best practice ML initiatives conducted or supported by regulators, to provide inspiration to others and celebrate successes.

The first step was to identify a set of key principles to identify and qualify best practice in media literacy. While it is understood that media literacy initiatives can take many shapes and forms, it was the view of the Action Group that using a set of key principles as a framework for ML can provide much needed consistency for practitioners and policymakers. Through an extensive consultation process, six key principles were identified as follows: Transparency, Multi-Stakeholder Aspect, Focus on the user/citizen, Reach, Evaluation and Localisation. The Action Group further emphasised that the principles must work together. When combined, the key principles provide a best practice framework which is applicable to all ML activities – with partners, and for initiatives designed by VSPs themselves, including at the point of interface with the user. The principles and their working definition are further developed in the report.

Furthermore, the Action Group undertook a comprehensive review of media literacy initiatives, actions, policies, etc, developed and implemented at a European level, with a large number of different actors. The report contains several useful links to various policies, initiatives and funding programmes which can be of great benefit to media literacy practitioners while noting that access to adequate funding and resources is a common issue for all ML actors, including NRAs.

A similar audit was conducted with the EU-27 NRAs to assess the level of engagement with ML in general. From an NRA perspective, the report notes that greater cooperation within Member States and across Europe would be helpful for NRAs, provide consistency and maximise opportunities for quality ML interventions. Regardless of their statutory remit in ML, it was notable that NRAs are actively engaged in ML in one way or another. As always, resources and funding can be scarce, and several suggestions are made to maximise opportunities. These include, for example, a proposal for NRAs to jointly develop concepts for ML activities that meet the mandate of NRAs and enhanced co-operation and partnership between ERGA and existing European networks such as the Commission’s Media Literacy Expert Group and EPRA’s EMIL. The idea here is very much centered on the strength and value that partnerships can deliver for ML.

Finally, the Action Group also recommended that the key principles should be applied to all VSPs’ ML initiatives with a view to help identify the application of best practice. This recommendation underpins the Media Literacy Toolbox which is outlined in the report. The study found that NRAs are only aware of a very limited number of ML initiatives led, implemented, or supported by VSPs. The lack of clear and consistent channels of communication between VSPs and NRAs appear to create issues of transparency, visibility and understanding of VSPs’ activities in this area. It was the view of the Action Group that consistent, transparent, and quality information from VSPs about their ML initiatives can only enhance the reach of these and that practical application of the key principles is highly likely to help improve users/citizens’ experiences.

It is hoped that the six key principles identified by the ERGA Action Group on Media Literacy find their way in the development, implementation and evaluation of ML initiatives conducted or supported by NRAs, VSPs, and any other ML actor.

Stephanie Comey and Antje vom Berg

Co-Chairs of the ERGA Action Group on Media Literacy 2021