A recent survey by Shih Hsin University has given media literacy in Taiwan a minimal grade and found considerable room for improvement in the public’s ability to detect embedded advertising while also struggling to accurately judge advertisements for medicines.
This year’s score of 62.9 out of 100 was 3.4 points higher than last year’s, but with the survey’s margin of error operating a plus or minus of 3.1 percentage points, the score actually amounts to barely a passing grade, Lin Cheng-yu (林承宇), an assistant professor with the university’s School of Lifelong Learning, said on Friday.
Although media literacy education has been promoted in Taiwan, the effort has focused on schools, which has helped lead to an improvement in literacy among younger generations, but not among the general population, Lin said.
The survey found a gap in media literacy between urban and rural residents because of levels of education and access to information.
City residents tend to score higher because they have access to more information, while people in rural areas tend to follow the media “blindly,” Lin said.
Many so-called health drinks that are popular in more rural areas, for example, are advertised as products that will make people feel energized and are good for their health. In fact, they contain alcohol or drugs that should only be dispensed by licensed pharmacists, Lin said.
The Council of Labor Affairs has found that many workplace accidents were related to the consumption of these types of health drinks that contain alcohol, he said.
The public also still needs to improve its ability to identify embedded advertising, Lin said, because certain commercials are presented as talk shows, especially for dieting-related products, appearance or sexual performance enhancement.
A talk show targeted at a female audience, for example, might invite a popular makeup artist to introduce makeup products, such as BB creams where the camera will “accidentally” focus on the brand name and the show’s presenter might ask something like “where can we buy this?” Lin said.
If viewers have the ability to analyze and discern what is going on, they will understand that the program is an advertisement, Lin said. He warned people to think twice before purchasing these items.
Lin said the purpose of media literacy education is to equip the public with the ability to “make distinctions” before they are “persuaded.” This skill will help audiences understand the limitations of news reports and realize that the point of commercials is to sell products, he added.
The nationwide survey was conducted by the university’s College of Journalism and Communications from May 21 to June 18. It questioned 1,000 people on their use of the media from platforms including newspapers, magazines, radio broadcasts, TV and the Internet.