Ofcom is the independent regulator for the UK communications industries, with responsibilities across television, radio, telecommunications and wireless communications services.
Under Section 11 of the Communications Act 2003, Ofcom is required to bring about, or to encourage others to bring about, a better public understanding of the nature and characteristics of material published by the electronic media and its various delivery systems. This forms part of our work in the field of media literacy as outlined in the Ofcom Annual Plan for 2005/2006. Ofcom defines media literacy as the ability to access, understand and create communications in a variety of contexts.
In addition to these media literacy obligations, under Section 3 (2 e) of the Communications Act 2003 Ofcom has a duty to apply adequate protection to members of the public from the inclusion of offensive and harmful material in such services.
In 2004 Ofcom published the consultation document ‘Ofcom’s Strategy and Priorities for the Promotion of Media Literacy’. The consultation made a call to the UK audio-visual industries to consider establishing a common content labelling (information) scheme for material delivered across all platforms so as to give consumers an idea of the nature of content provided.
Following the consultation, Ofcom established an Audio Visual Content Information Working Group (AVCIWG). This group of stakeholders and other interested parties was brought together to inform our work in this area. The AVCIWG includes representatives from the broadcasting sector (including the British Board of Film Classification); the internet and mobile phone industries; the games industry and consumer organisations.
The aim of this research is to provide evidence of consumer needs and preferences and to inform Ofcom’s thinking in this area so as to give guidance to stakeholders.