Malta still lacks a comprehensive media literacy policy or strategy, raising questions about the role of the Media Literacy Development Board set up over three years ago.
The response to a Freedom of Information (FOI) request seen by The Shift revealed that the Media Literacy Development Board had discussed creating a strategy document to tackle media literacy, a matter mentioned by several government ministries in their policies.
But despite this, no proposals have been put forward, and no comprehensive working documents exist, despite the fact media literacy in the country is considered “high risk”, according to the latest Media Pluralism Monitor report.
What’s the board been up to?
The Media Literacy Development Board was set up in 2021 following an amendment to the Broadcasting Act (Article 16MA) and now falls under the remit of the Ministry for National Heritage, the Arts and Local Government.
The Board is supposed to work in consultation with the Broadcasting Authority and other government entities, yet to be specified, to draft a way forward and promote the development of media literacy skills.
However, the first chairperson of the Board was replaced just five months after he was appointed, and to date, there is still no information on the government’s website about the board’s current formation.
Based on the information provided through the FOI request, the board has an annual budget of €20,000 and in 2022, the board commissioned a national survey on various topics related to media literacy, the results of which were then presented and discussed at a conference, also organised by the board.
The FOI reply also says that the board held “numerous consultation meetings with different stakeholders, especially in education, young people and the elderly” and introduced Lifelong Learning courses in media literacy for adults both in class and online.
Lastly, the board states it is developing a programme for educators and an outreach programme for teenagers, both initiatives of which will be “launched shortly”.
The FOI reply also directs the reader to Malta’s country report on the measures taken to promote and develop media literacy skills, which were submitted to the European Commission as required by the Audiovisual Media Services Directive (Article 33a(2).
However, the details within the submission are sparse and consist primarily of listing all the entities responsible for promoting and undertaking media literacy initiatives and a short list of broad policy measures.
When the Commission asked whether Malta plans to introduce measures to assess the impact of media literacy initiatives, an inconclusive answer was submitted, simply listing four broad media literacy initiatives.
Reasons for high risk remain
According to the latest annual report by the Media Pluralism Monitor, the Media Literacy indicator scores a high risk at 80%, three percentage points higher than the previous edition of the MPM (77%)
The MPM report notes, “no working documents or proposals have been put forward and, thus, Malta still has no comprehensive Media Literacy Policy. Media literacy is still not a compulsory subject in the education curriculum but may be offered as an optional SEC vocational subject, entitled Media Literacy Education, at the secondary school level.”
While the report does note some initiatives by the Ministry of Education, it concludes that Malta “is still in urgent need of comprehensive media literacy policy, that addresses both formal and informal education strategies, to include all members of society, with a clear set of objectives and timelines.”
Malta has also registered no progress in the 2023 Media Literacy Index by the Open Society Institute, garnering 45 points out of a possible 100 (with 100 being the best), ranking 26th out of the 41 countries surveyed.
The country remains in the study’s third cluster out of five, with the best-performing countries in the first cluster and the worst in the 5th. The cluster analysis looks at groups of countries with identical characteristics along the indicators of the Media Literacy Index.
The third cluster, where Malta is placed, has several countries the study considers “transitional” and at risk of slipping further down the ranking.