The constant urgent need for media literacy
The current media landscape keeps giving us “bad news”. Be it new insights into the corona crisis, a standstill in Brexit or charges against individuals in positions of power. However, this is not the worst that our media has to offer. Every day, tons of fake news and misinformation are spread across our feeds, timelines, and pages.
Fighting misinformation is a key challenge for Shout Out UK and on November 27th, ‘Breaking News? The Future of British Journalism ”was published by the Communications and Digital Committee in an attempt to understand some of the issues facing the media.
Saving good journalism
The House of Lords Special Committee on Communication and Digital Communication aims to examine public order in relation to the media and general digital communication. It aims to assess what action needs to be taken by hearing evidence from individuals, academics, corporations, think tanks and ministers. In this case, Matteo Bergamini, CEO of Shout Out UK, was asked to talk about media literacy and what needs to be done to understand the media we are exposed to.
The committee noted that funding for journalism itself was the most urgent issue. The rise in online news consumption and falling sales of print journalism have created an “existential threat” to good journalism. The unequal power dynamic between news outlets and tech giants like Facebook and Google needs to be addressed, with the potential solution being to get these companies to pay publishers for the right to distribute stories. The chairman Lord Gilbert also called for an expansion of journalistic training. He argued that more of these programs “would expand journalism, create local jobs and opportunities for aspiring journalists”. There was also a recommendation for the BBC news website to publish reports from smaller and local news organizations that have fallen victim to the success of the BBC’s online presence.
The need for media literacy
The report raised the issue of media literacy, a skill that is essential for anyone to understand the validity and value of a story. Media literacy is essential to enable consumers to blame media companies for false positives in their work and to reward them for providing accurate and informative news. Full Fact, a fact-checking website, found that media literacy can help people “better understand what affects media coverage” and also help them “be more confident about identifying and challenging false or misleading claims “. According to Matteo Bergamini, media literacy is: “How to critically understand the media we consume” and “Understand misinformation, disinformation and fake news”.
The pursuit of media literacy is essential to restore confidence in our democratic system, but also to create a more harmonious society. The spread of misinformation – like the infamous Vote Leave bus slogan – creates rifts and confusion in our democracy, with voters not always sure what they support or disapprove of. That was aptly shown by the confused reactions immediately after the EU referendum. People were just confused about what they chose. Some believed they would wake up and leave the EU immediately, others weren’t even sure what the single market was. Introducing media literacy in our schools and workplaces would enable citizens to be better informed about their choices and empowered; effective and strengthens our democracy.
The increase in misinformation has arguably also contributed to a steady increase in racially and religiously motivated hate crimes. From anti-immigration headlines on our tabloids to outright lies about Muslims being sold by far-right “news” sites like Breitbart, disinformation corrupts well-meaning individuals who change their minds due to a range of ultra-right propaganda. Media literacy can empower people to understand and criticize the source of their news, its agenda and content.
Media literacy is essential if we are to become a more tolerant and thought-oriented society, rather than one that is corrupted and lured into skepticism by lies and deception. The battle for media literacy is essential. If anything is to restore our confidence in democracy, it is this.