The European Commission defines media literacy as “the ability of individuals to access and understand information through different means, such as television, radio, print media, and the internet, and digital technology” (European Commission 2014).
The definition given by the European Commission has two interrelated components that can be simply termed access and evaluation. In the language of “media literacy” access and evaluation are also respectively called “use skills” and “critical skills.” An important third component that is often included in definitions of media literacy is that of “communication,” the creation and dissemination of new media.
The data presented here is based on GORBI’s first survey of media literacy conducted in the fall of 2014 in Georgia. This survey is meant to be a baseline that can be used to compare how media literacy in Georgia changes over time. The project analysis used for this article was produced by Christopher Anderson who has worked with GORBI in the past and is about to finish his PhD in Political Science at the University of Iowa. GORBI adapted the framework developed by the European Association for Viewers’ Interests (EAVI) so that we would be better able to compare our findings in Georgia with EU countries. This is the first attempt to create such a measure of media literacy in the EU vs. Georgia.
In this column I will focus on ACCESS (Use Skills), a key component on which media literacy is built. An individual who lacks access to media can hardly be expected to be media literate, and there is a great deal of variation across societies in the rates of access to various kinds of media. For example, while radio technology is old and fairly ubiquitous, new digital technologies, such as high-speed internet or internet-connected smartphones are much less common. There is also a tremendous amount of variation in media access inside of individual societies. Such variation is often related to factors such as sex, age, education, income, or belonging to a particular racial or ethnic group.
As figure1 makes abundantly clear, Georgia compares very unfavorably to the European Union in regards to use skills. Whereas an estimated 26% of the individuals in the EU as a whole are rated as “advanced,” only an estimated 0.5% of Georgians scored as high. Even Bulgaria, one of the poorest countries in the European Union, has an estimated 20% of its population in the advanced category. Georgia looks a little better in the middle category, but it still lags significantly behind the other countries. Finally, we see that the majority of Georgians (85.5%) occupy the “basic” category. This is more than double the percent of the next highest country, Bulgaria.
The extremely large differences that exist between Georgia and the rest of the European Union in the use skills category is largely due to the emphasis the category places on activities related to the internet. Internet penetration is quite low in Georgia, rendering Georgia unable to score highly in this category.
For Georgia, which is undertaking rapid economic and social reforms in line with European Union standards, having media literate citizens is particularly important since they will be indirectly contributing to democratic reforms and the strengthening of civil society. Moreover, the larger the number of media literate individuals in a society, the easier it should be to create the conditions necessary for economic prosperity. As Georgia continues to consolidate its democratic gains, it will be important for the country to increase its level of media literacy, and I am most happy to admit that there have been some moves towards this issue by some NGO activists. The government has also promised to invest a considerable amount of money in internet infrastructure development in rural Georgia, so more citizens will have access to World Wide Web.
GORBI is a regional hub for partner organizations and international clients. Since 2003, GORBI remains an exclusive member of Gallup International research network for its two decades of experience in survey research in post-Soviet Union countries, as well as Mongolia and Iraq. This data was provided exclusively to the Financial.