IPSO Blog: The importance of media literacy

Head of Standards Charlotte Urwin on the importance of media literacy and the work IPSO is doing in this area.

As one of the biggest content regulators in the UK, we think media literacy is really important because it supports people to act as informed citizens. It gives the public the skills and knowledge to understand, analyse and critique the content they are consuming and allows them to make informed decisions about how to engage with it and how to manage any potential risk. 

Why is media literacy important? 

We want all citizens to have appropriate levels of media literacy to make informed decisions about what sorts of news they would like to access. They should be able to recognise and avoid harmful fake news, and know how to identify curated and edited content displaying high-quality journalism. 

We would also like people to have awareness of the methods available to seek redress from the regulated press when journalists do get things wrong, and to know that IPSO is the body that they can go to if they have any concerns about potential media intrusion. 

What role can regulation play in supporting media literacy? 

Independent regulation has a key role to play in media literacy, by holding publishers accountable to an external set of standards (The Editors’ Code) and helping consumers to easily identify edited, curated, professionally produced products. 

What is IPSO doing to improve media literacy? 

Raising awareness 

In December 2017, we launched the IPSO mark, a visual symbol that can be used by all its publications to show their commitment to professional standards and an edited, regulated product. The mark is a way for publishers to communicate to readers that their content is regulated and helps publishers to distinguish themselves from the unregulated. The mark now features in most national newspapers regulated by IPSO, as well as many local newspapers and magazines. It is voluntary for publishers to use the mark, and we are pleased that so many have chosen to do so. Next year we will be encouraging others to join them, as it is an important means of raising public awareness about editorial standards. 

We also ran adverts in fourteen different national titles to raise awareness of the IPSO mark. The advert made the point that fake news is not welcome where you see the mark and demonstrates that, by following the Editors’ Code, IPSO regulated publications are committed to high standards and accurate reporting. 

Improving understanding of journalistic practice 

We also want to improve citizens’ understanding of journalism and good journalistic practice. We have produced information for the public explaining the rules which journalists should follow when reporting on deaths, when taking information from social media, or when reporting on court proceedings; we have also produced information for survivors of sexual offences. In addition to these leaflets, we have also produced short videos covering the same topics and have a podcast and blog about media standards more generally. This information is designed to address misconceptions about what journalists can and cannot do, but also to empower citizens to engage with journalists more effectively. 

Citizens are truly media literate when they are not only able to identify high quality content but also understand the mechanisms for holding content to account when that content differs from the accepted standards. 


Originally published 30 November 2018.