MIL and User-Generated Content

Media and other information providers, including private owners, are also central to making media and information literacy (MIL) a mass, engaging civic education movement. While the freedom, independence and plurality of media and other information providers must be guarded, there are opportunities for fruitful partnerships between them and civil society groups.

Rapid advances in technology mean that audiences are able to generate more and wider ranging content to offer broadcasters – from letters, emails and text messages to photos, videos and blogs. Benefits of promoting and using user-generated content (UGC) include free access to material that broadcasters might not otherwise obtain, for example footage of breaking news stories.

Furthermore, there is a steady rise in citizens reporting in social media as well as in mainstream media, particularly through mobile technologies. There is evidence of this in the number of citizens reporting related programmes in major news networks, such as I-Report on CNN, No Comment segment on Euronews, and The Stream on Al Jazeera. In fact, user-generated content is becoming a standard feature of many media organisations.

The mass media (radio, television and newspaper), the Internet, libraries, archives and museums can all assist in ensuring the permanence of MIL issues in the public and in transmitting information and media competencies to all citizens. The types of activities that could be developed, strengthened and replicated to reach not only cities but also remote, rural and marginalized groups are endless. The Guideline for Broadcasters on Promoting User-Generated Content and Media and Information Literacy, prepared by UNESCO and the Commonwealth Broadcasting Association, offers some insight in this direction.

The guidelines encourage broadcasters, particularly from developed and developing countries alike, to interact with their viewers, listeners or users to enhance the quality of the UGC, and to improve MIL among their audiences and UGC producers.

They provide guidance on how to encourage a greater diversity of material from a wider range of voices – material that serves both the public duty and commercial needs of broadcasters, as well as democratic needs of the audience.

Therefore, as a part of its overall MIL strategy, UNESCO is partnering with broadcasting unions and association and media houses globally to adapt and pilot the guidelines, leading to greater awareness of MIL and improved engagement of citizens through UGC.

UNESCO’s mission is to foster media and information literate societies through a comprehensive strategy which includes:

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