Analysis of the Swedish Media Council (2018:9)
The Government has tasked the Statskontoret (The Swedish Agency for Public Management) with analysing the work of the Swedish Media Council. Statskontoret has looked at how the Swedish Media Council carries out its work vis-à-vis other actors operating in closely related fields, and at how the agency has carried out the tasks set out in its instruction from the Government. Statskontoret has also examined what demand there is for the initiatives taken by the Swedish Media Council and the way in which the Government has managed the agency.
The Swedish Media Council’s main tasks are to monitor trends in media use among children and young people, disseminate information and provide guidance on media use among children and young people, and also establish age ratings for films. The agency does this in ways such as producing reports and analyses and developing educational and guidance material.
Swedish Media Council measures overlap with the activities of other actors
The analysis made by Statskontoret shows that both public and private-sector actors produce educational and guidance material similar to the measures taken by the Swedish Media Council. The Swedish National Agency for Education, the Swedish Educational Broadcasting Company (UR) and the Internet Foundation in Sweden also produce material on subjects such as media and information literacy (MIL).
The Swedish Media Council is not alone either in analysing media use among children and young people. Nordicom and the Internet Foundation in Sweden also gather statistics on children, young people and the media.
Statskontoret takes the view that these overlapping measures mean an inefficient use of public-sector resources. What is especially problematic is the overlap of state-sector measures and the focus of these agencies on the same target groups.
The Swedish Media Council is having difficulty reaching out
The analysis made by Statskontoret shows that Swedish Media Council measures are having little impact. The Swedish Media Council’s main target group is teachers, and most of these have no knowledge about the agency or the agency’s educational tools, although during 2016-2017 there was an increasing awareness of the agency and its initiatives. Our comparison with the educational and guidance material and statistics reports produced by other actors still shows that the demand for Swedish Media Council material is low.
The Government assignment has clarified its instruction ...
Statskontoret believes that the Government has ensured the Swedish Media Council to have the prerequisites for fulfilling its assignment on the basis of the instruction and funding. However, we still believe the Government could provide better direction in a number of ways.
…yet has at the same time restricted the Swedish Media Council’s own room for manoeuvre
The tasks contained in the Swedish Media Council’s instruction are formulated in broad terms and have meant that the agency has had to add its own interpretation of the content of the instruction.
We believe that the assignments given by the Government to the Swedish Media Council have helped the agency comply with the content of the instruction, but that these have at the same time been a strain on its resources given its small size. This applies mainly to the assignments that resulted in the MIL for me educational material and the No Hate Speech Movement campaign. The scope of the assignments means that the agency has been given less room for manoeuvre to make its own interpretation of the instruction and base its activities on the requirements of society.
The Government has not asked the Agency to present its results
Statskontoret believes the Government has not done enough to ask the Swedish Media Council to present results showing the benefit of its activities.
The results presented to the Government by the Swedish Media Council are based on objectives that show the extent to which children and young people have become better at managing information as a result of the Swedish Media Council’s measures. We feel that these objectives lie far beyond the agency’s area of influence. The follow-up and presentation of the results do not include objectives showing how the Swedish Media Council influences the target groups which are its prime concern; namely, teachers and parents. This means the Government has no basis and thus no tools for assessing whether the agency’s measures serve to fulfil the overall goals in the instruction which are that children and young people are made conscious media users and are protected from harmful media influences.
Government initiatives for increased digital skills may make it harder for the Swedish Media Council to have an impact
During 2017 the Government introduced several initiatives that in the view of Statskontoret could make it harder for Swedish Media Council measures to have an impact. The initiatives include a digitalisation strategy for Sweden, a digitalisation strategy that is specifically for schools, and a targeted initiative to promote greater MIL in libraries. These initiatives are closely related to the core competence of the Swedish Media Council and could make it more difficult for the agency to reach out to schools in terms of its guidance material.
Certain shortcomings in the internal management of the agency
Statskontoret states that to all intents and purposes the Swedish Media Council fulfils its tasks in accordance with its government instruction. Since the start of 2011 the agency has produced a large number of reports and publications providing guidance, primarily to increase media and information literacy among children and young people.
However, Statskontoret also believes there are certain shortcomings in the internal management of the Swedish Media Council. These shortcomings may have affected the agency’s chances of establishing itself in society and ensuring its measures have sufficient impact.
Poor follow-up of activities
We believe that the Swedish Media Council needs to develop its own follow-up procedures. At present the agency measures its results on the basis of two objectives: that young people shall become better at critically evaluating and creating information in different media, and that young people shall become better at managing information that can be harmful to their well-being. Statskontoret believes that these objectives lie far beyond the agency’s area of influence. The Swedish Media Council has not developed any indicators for measuring whether and how the Council’s activities might have an impact or be of benefit to teachers and parents. Teachers and parents are the main targets of these activities.
Potential for greater collaboration within the agency
The idea behind the organisation of the Swedish Media Council is for the work of analysis and the provision of guidance to be of mutual benefit. The intention is that analysis of media development shall identify development trends that the agency can use for providing guidance material.
Statskontoret believes that the agency’s current work procedures do not optimise collaboration between the units. The planning of measures and projects is usually done within one or other of the units. The lack of collaboration between these different areas means that the measures are not implemented as effectively as possible.
The agency has not assumed its role of expert
According to its instruction, the Swedish Media Council shall consider and develop its role of expert. We believe that the role assumed by the agency up to now is more that of a knowledge broker and less that of a guidance provider. The Council does not take a decided stand or set guidelines in relation to media use among children.
Proposals to the Government
In order to improve the Swedish Media Council’s chances of fulfilling its assignment and becoming an actor of relevance and in demand among its target groups, Statskontoret proposes that:
- the Government ought to consider and place in order of priority new and specific assignments for the Swedish Media Council
- the Government ought to include in the Swedish Media Council’s letter of instruction an assignment proposing the way in which to measure the agency’s achievements and to link these to the overall goals of the Swedish Media Council
- the Government ought, within the framework of the internal coordination of the Swedish Government Offices, to clarify how initiatives in the field of the media and digitalisation relate to the activities of the Swedish Media Council.
Proposals to the Swedish Media Council
In order to improve the internal management of the Swedish Media Council, Statskontoret proposes that:
- the Swedish Media Council ought to develop further its internal results chain in order to clarify how its measures are linked to the tasks set out in the instruction
- the Swedish Media Council ought to develop a method of working that creates better prerequisites for collaboration between the different areas of its organisation
- the Swedish Media Council ought to bring more to the fore its role of expert.
In order for the Swedish Media Council to establish a better footing in society and to avoid measures similar to its own being made by other actors, Statskontoret proposes measures that include the following:
- the Swedish Media Council ought to analyse which areas and issues are not covered by other government agencies and organisations
- the Swedish Media Council ought to conduct a dialogue on coordinating and streamlining statistical surveys on media habits and media use among young people together with the Swedish Press and Broadcasting Authority, Nordicom, and the Internet Foundation in Sweden.
- the Swedish Media Council ought to strengthen its collaboration with other actors, especially those that have developed communication channels with the target groups. These actors might, for instance, be the Swedish National Agency for Education or the Internet Foundation in Sweden.