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EBU report finds public service media play key role in addressing media literacy deficit

25 October 2023
Image is a cartoon of a girl with a laptop sitting on a world globe, with a pattern of computer graphics in the background

A comprehensive report, released during Global Media and Information Literacy Week by the EBU’s Media Intelligence Service, sheds light on a critical lack of digital skills among European adults, with just 54% of 16–74-year-old Europeans having basic (or above) digital skills.

‘Public Service Media: Strengthening Media Literacy’ references 54 public service media (PSM) organizations that offer media literacy programmes across 33 markets and draws on original survey data from 30 public broadcasters. The result is a map of media literacy resources and activities provided by PSM in Europe and the wider media industry. It underscores the real and continuing need for media literacy support, especially as the digital age continues to shape the way information is consumed and shared. 

Many EBU member broadcasters reported that they were implementing initiatives designed to address low or non-existent levels of media literacy. Subject areas include artificial intelligence, news, digital skills, and programmes aimed at children and young people. Unanimously, broadcasters responding to our survey emphasized that media literacy would become even more critical for them during the next five years.

TG4 is one of the media outlets that cited media literacy as becoming an increasingly important priority.

Máire Aoibhinn Ní Ógái, TG4’s Head of Archives, says: “Media literacy, the enabling of critical thinking, and being a safe and reliable source of news, information, and entertainment are an integral part of our strategy over the next five years in which we plan to re-imagine our news and current affairs services and build on our educational resources.”

In the report, PSM emerge as pivotal players in addressing media literacy deficits. The topic mirrors the core remit of public broadcasting, which is to enable individuals to make informed decisions and better identify trusted information. Elements that are key to democracy and crucial during elections.

Swiss broadcaster, RTS, runs initiatives that focus on fake news and democratic participation, including political and civil education.

Christine Pompéi is responsible for RTS’ Media Education: “Without doubt, media literacy contributes to the deciphering of information and encourages a civic-minded approach. By developing critical thinking and media consumption skills, RTS offers an educational strategy that is fully in line with its public service mission.”

The report examines how news literacy is key to combatting disinformation, showing that while one in four Europeans say that they are often exposed to fake news, 36% of the EU population lacks confidence in recognizing it. The most vulnerable groups in this area were found to be younger adults, people who spend long hours online, and people who get their news on social media platforms.  

Like many public broadcasters, Ceska Televize in the Czech Republic has an official government mandate to deliver media literacy education and, as well as covering news and disinformation, is planning to expand into general digital skills and generative AI and recommendation algorithms.

RTV Slovenia on the other hand has no official mandate (in line with 43% of PSM organizations) but is one of the broadcasters that sees media literacy increasing in importance for them in the next few years. The broadcaster already engages in initiatives that educate teens in news literacy including fake news, hidden advertising on social platforms and insights into being a journalist.

Media activities are a big part of children’s formative years and parents have high levels of concern around children’s online behaviour. For example, 70% worry about their kids being bullied online and the same number are concerned that their children are seeing content that encourages them to harm themselves.

German broadcaster, Bayerischer Rundfunk's (BR) media literacy projects are based on two pillars: projects for children and young people and events and training courses for teachers and other interested adults. On average, around 20,000 children, young people and adults take part directly in projects organized by the broadcaster. 

Isabella Schmid, Head of Media Literacy Projects at BR, says “We are convinced that the best way to understand media is to "do it yourself." The participants produce their own articles with BR media professionals, learn the basics of journalism and critically question content.”

One of their biggest initiatives is the ARD Youth Media Day which now involves all the German state broadcasters. The event planned for 15 November has around 200 online workshops on the topic of “Everything AI?” For example, AI is quite good at homework - but can AI also make friends? Can AI save lives? Can AI replace us?

It's also about how AI impacts democracy and the increased potential for deepfakes and disinformation. Adds Isabella, “Finding facts in the midst of opinions or fakes is not so easy.”

Jean Philip De Tender is EBU Deputy Director General/Director Media: “Media literacy is the key to unlocking a world that is bombarded with information. It empowers individuals to discern truth from misinformation and fosters a society that can activate critical thinking in response to biased narratives and deceptive content. 

“As this report clearly shows, public service media are an essential pillar of media literacy education and, through targeted initiatives, factual and news content, can equip the public with the tools to analyse, question and interpret the information they encounter.”

‘Public Service Media: Strengthening Media Literacy’ is released on 25 October, during Global Media and Information Literacy Week.

Relevant links and documents


Jo Waters

Head of Content Communications