Ofcom publishes research on media literacy

March 6th, 2006 | by Andrew Ó Baoill |

Ofcom has produced a new report on media literacy (PDF) that has some interesting data. First, what they mean by media literacy is rather interesting. Second, I was interested in their figures on digital radio.

Digital radio, in the form of DAB, is quite well established in the UK at this point – with both BBC and commercial offerings. So, the figures for take-up are interesting. 27% of adults say they listen to digital radio services (p38). However, when you look at responses to questions about ‘reasons to acquire digital radio’ 22% say because it’s available through digital TV, with a further 10% saying it’s available via the internet. [I should note that these questions, in survey lingo, are unprompted.] So in reality, 1/3 of those who are counted as already listening to digital radio aren’t listening to DAB, but rather to alternative audio offerings. This brings the DAB figure down to 18% at most – it may be that some of those who don’t specify the internet or digital television are actually referring to that rather than DAB. If you include the 15% who talk about digital radio being ‘convenient to listen when I want’ – which seems to be a reference to podcasts and downloads rather than DAB – the figure for DAB falls to about 14%.

Other responses to why people adopt digital radio include better sound quality (42% of those who have adopted, and 64% of ‘future adopters’), extra stations (31% adopters, 36% future adopters), and extra BBC stations in particular (5% adopters, 7% future adopters).

Looking at listenership levels, they get 8.6 hours at home per week, and 6.6 hours per week elsewhere, somewhat below existing estimates, which they put down to differences in methodology (between diary approaches and their survey approach). In terms of breakdown by social group they find “relatively few differences in terms of total listening volumes across most of the sub-groups detailed, although radio listening at home is highest amongst older people aged 65 and over and lowest amongst those from minority ethnic groups.” More accurately, 16-24 year olds fall well below the average, with those over 65 being just slightly above average. Those with disabilities or in rural areas are noticeably above average.

There is also a break-out by access method, with those using DAB listening to more radio – as you would expect from early-adopters – and traditional radio (AM/FM) being least. However, there seems to be a problem with their chart here, as the average/’all’ figure is below the figure for each specific delivery mechanism, which seems, well, strange.

Although question wording isn’t provided, the result that 59% think radio is ‘regulated’ is intriguing. I wonder what the wording used was, and how it was interpreted by respondents. Is it a good or bad thing that many respondents either don’t know (27%) or believe it is not (presumably 14%). Of course, unlike television’s watershed, radio in the United Kingdom doesn’t have any major regulations that are common currency.

Only 9% of adults vocalize concerns about radio content (though this is somewhat higher among ethnic minorities). The report doesn’t break out the various concerns other than to note that language (e.g. lyrics in music) and ‘poor quality content’ are the main areas. What’s interesting here is that the examples of poor quality given are “advertising breaks, and content being ratings-driven.” That is, of those who are concerned about radio content, a large proportion (maybe 3-5%?) are concerned about the commercial nature of radio.

There’s a lot more, but unfortunately I don’t have time at the moment to delve deeper. Certainly a useful document to have on hand, if only to deconstruct.

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