Digital Media Literacy in EDMO Round Table: IBERIFIER
This interview is part of the ”Digital Media Literacy in EDMO Round Table’‘ interview series that will be published every month to highlight the work of the 14 EDMO hubs. Conducted by the Media & Learning Association (MLA).
Who are the leading players in the Iberic region when it comes to promoting media literacy?
In the case of Spain over the last few months several good initiatives have appeared in both the academic and the professional sectors. In the first case, the number and relevance of research initiatives is growing and there are some groups that should be taken into account. Besides the Iberifier team, the Group on the Universidad Jaume I, or the Grupo Comunicar Group (University of Huelva) are very well known. On the professional side, fact checkers such as Maldita, Verificat or Newtral are all very active, and more recently one of the main media groups’ foundation (Atres Media) has started a very interesting program on media literacy.
In Portugal, the big news is the creation of a National Media Literacy Plan, announced by the Minister of Culture on 21 April, during the Congress Literacy, Media and Citizenship, in Lisbon. This plan will be developed in articulation with the National Reading Plan (autonomous structure dependent of the Ministry of Education) and should involve all the entities with activity in the Media Literacy area. A report produced by Observatório da Comunicação – OBERCOM under the scope of Iberifier, published this month, identifies around 20 entities, including public (General Direction of Education, School Libraries Network, Rádio Televisão Portuguesa, Lusa Agency), private media (Público, Visão, Diário de Notícias, Jornal de Notícias, Rádio Miúdos) and NGOs (e.g. Media Literacy and Journalism Association). It also mentions, as examples, 10 ongoing research projects in Portugal.
Do you have any idea as to how media-literate people in this region are generally? Are there any types of measures that can be used to assess this over time?
According to some international studies, Spain is in a second-tier group of countries. At national level, only teachers have at their disposal a tool to measure their digital competence (no including media literacy) but there are no other ways to measure this at a more general level. The situation in Portugal is very similar to the Spanish one. The country ranks 14 among the 41 countries assessed by the Media Literacy Index 2022, produced by the Open Society Institute-Sofia. The assessment of the media literacy level of the population, a goal that the European Commission has been pursuing since 2009, still lacks consensual tools and standards, so the work must continue. There are, however, some projects that have obtained interesting results, such as Comedig, led by the University of Coimbra and focused on the school population (from Primary to Higher Education), having concluded that the students surveyed reach a median level in the tests carried out, a level that increases with age.
What are the main challenges you face in promoting media literacy in Portugal-Spain?
Probably both countries face a similar challenge: the awareness about the need and urgency for media literacy as a common effort involving different stakeholders.
What value do you think EDMO and the network of EDMO hubs in particular bring to the challenge of fighting disinformation and promoting media literacy in this region?
On the one hand, EDMO has a huge added value in terms of drawing citizens’ attention to the causes and consequences of disinformation. On the other hand, it provides a way to show citizens that there are ways to fight the wave of disinformation, whether by legal (e.g. Digital Services Act), self-regulatory (e.g. Code of Practice 2022), technological (e.g. fact-checkers, using algorithms to prebunk disinformation) or educational (Media Literacy) means. In addition, EDMO acts on the ground through the regional observatories, organising this action according to specific contexts, which is fundamental, as the fight against disinformation must be done through tailor-made strategies and not ready-made ones.
What types of media literacy activities have been organised by IBERIFIER since it was set up?
Iberifier’s strategy in terms of Media Literacy is based on three areas: 1) creation of resources; 2) training and monitoring; 3) participation in national and international forums.
In terms of resources, two Media Literacy manuals were created, one for trainers (journalists, teachers and others) and another one for learners, which are available in Portuguese and soon in Spanish. The manuals also include a list of Media Literacy resources available, not only in Portuguese and Spanish, but also in other languages and even in places outside Europe.
Regarding training, courses for journalists (2, 4 and 8 hours) were created and tested and are currently being implemented in Spain and Portugal, but also with journalists from Portuguese speaking countries (e.g. Angola, Cape Verde, East Timor…) and Portuguese correspondents all over the world, through Lusa News Agency. Courses were also created for teachers and educators, certified by the Ministry of Education in Portugal, of different lengths (6 hours online or offline, 25 hours online, 25 hours face-to-face and 40 hours face-to-face). The courses had been previously validated and are currently being delivered, according to a plan that lasts at least until February 2024. In addition, other audiences are currently being trained, such as elderly people, refugees, migrants and populations from deprived contexts.
Finally, in terms of participation in national and international forums, besides scientific meetings, the Iberifier Media Literacy team has participated in events organised by the Portuguese and Spanish parliaments, schools, trade unions, NGOs, mainstream media and other. It has also collaborated with Media Literacy teams from other observatories and developed activities with entities from other countries, from South America, Africa and even the United States of America.
What plans do you have in relation to media literacy for the next 12 months in Portugal and Spain?
For the next 12 months, we have three key challenges. The first one is to ensure the sustainability of Iberifier’s Media Literacy plan, because media literacy training must reach all citizens in a continuous way. The second is to establish partnerships with other EDMO observatories to implement multinational projects and to develop comparative research, for which several joint applications to different programmes have been submitted. The third consists of producing reports, analysing the results of the work developed and implementing new projects under the Iberifier umbrella, either in Portugal or Spain (at local, regional or national level), for example focused on the defence of democracy. This last point is essential to increase awareness about the need and the urgency of media literacy.
Charo Sádaba Chalezquer, Professor at the School of Communication, University of Navarra, Spain
Vitor Tomé, International MIL Expert and Researcher at Centre for Research and Studies in Sociology of ISCTE-University Institute of Lisbon, Portugal.