A Long Way to Achieve Informed Citizenry 

A Long Way to Achieve Informed Citizenry 

Being fully literate in today’s media environment goes beyond simply being “literate” in the traditional sense. Citizens in the new digital world not only need to be able to use multiple types of media, but they also need to be able to assess the quality of the message bring transmitted. GORBI recently conducted the only survey in the region to measure how citizens engage with media. This article is based on an analysis of this survey that was written by Chris Anderson, a PhD candidate in the Political Science department at the University of Iowa.

Media literacy can be thought of as being analogous to old-fashioned literacy. Just as being able to read and write became a necessary condition to become a productive member of society in the Western world over a century ago, having media literacy in the 21st century is just as important. In fact, an explosion in the number of sources of information and the ways in which this information is transmitted has made being media literate even more important today than in the past. There is simply more media material today than there has been at any point in the history of man. Moreover, the traditional gatekeepers of information, the editors and writers and producers, no longer have exclusive rights to filter content. Anyone with a computer and an internet connection can start a blog for all to read or upload a video to YouTube for all to see. Thus, the skills required to filter unreliable information from what can be trusted are more important than ever.  

GORBI’s survey on media literacy, the first of its kind in Georgia, had three key objectives: a) to create a baseline measurement of this subject; b) to determine how media literacy in Georgia compares to the countries of the EU; and c) to create a baseline measure of media consumption that can later be used to determine how this consumption changes over time.  While results of this survey are accessible to any interested party, and hopefully will be used by various stakeholders to for their policy papers or strategic documents, we feel it will be extremely worthwhile to carry out similar work in some of the neighboring countries in order to make regional comparisons. It would also be useful to conduct surveys in Ukraine and Moldova. Like Georgia, these two countries have both signed Association Agreements with the European Union and are undertaking similar reforms. 

I will present here data on one of three components of media literacy: Critical Understanding.  This wide-ranging component is made up of questions regarding respondent attitudes and trust levels towards various kinds of media. Does the individual exhibit healthy skepticism towards certain types of media messages or mediums? Individuals that show an ability to critically engage with media will score highly.  

As I wrote in the previous column, the media use skills in Georgia are way behind compared to any of the EU countries. However, Georgia compares much more favorably to Europe regarding the critical understanding section. Although a number of questions used to create this score do involve the internet, the majority do not. In this section, to review, the questions are concerned with measuring the respondent’s awareness in regards to how media actually works. While Georgia has few individuals who rate as advanced (8%), in the mid-level category Georgia is only 8 percentage points behind the EU average. Again, however, the majority of Georgians (60%) fall into the lowest category, basic. 

In any system, media can be used to inform, to persuade, to advertise, to entertain or any number of other purposes. Because of the wide-ranging goals of media and the diversity of techniques that are used to achieve these goals, citizens are faced on a daily basis with a never-ending array of media messages. Some messages are contradictory and others are outright false. A necessary condition for an informed citizenry, however, is a public that maintains a critical relationship to the media and the multitude of messages it produces. Thus, it is important that individuals are able to critically evaluate messages put out by all types of media.     

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.