There is a wealth of information available via the media, but it has not followed that citizens are more informed. This dichotomy has resulted in a threat to democracy – not from violent attack, but from apathy, passive disengagement and the proliferation of false information. The media is omnipresent in modern life. As such, it is no longer an advantage to be media literate, rather it is a disadvantage not to be, not only to individuals but to countries and international organisations.
“The more media literate a society becomes, the less likely it is that individuals and groups will be seduced by treachery and mediocrity. In the global skills race it remains, as ever was, that knowledge – not simply information – is the source of power and full citizenship. Therefore, citizens must be equipped with the skills to utilize and benefit from media, and to do this Europeans need to acquire new competences beyond that of traditional literacy.”
- EAVI – Study Assessment Criteria for Media Literacy Levels in All EU Member States, 2010
21st Century Europe requires citizens to gain new skills; it is no longer sufficient to be able to read, write and count. It is now absolutely necessary that they learn how to read and write in the context of new media. Modern society is pluralist, inclusive and interactive, making it more important than ever that individuals know how to decipher information, carry out critical analysis, use media to the common advantage, and learn how to produce content themselves in order to fully engage with democracy.
Media literacy focuses on the development of critical thinking and participation in public life through the media. EAVI’s activities aim to promote media literacy for all citizens throughout Europe. It is at the core of the cultural development and progression of democratic society.
In order to use media appropriately, individuals require a broadening (as well as reinforcement) of traditional literacy. It is not simply a technical skill (ie, the use of media platforms), rather it is the capacity to critically evaluate and analyse numerous sources of information simultaneously. This skill requires traditional literacy, reasoning, social injunction, and the ability to decipher symbolic and cultural codes and conventions.
EAVI on Media Literacy
EAVI recognizes the requirement of increased media literacy in the global context of an information society. In order to achieve this, it is necessary to animate debate and encourage dialogue, as well as to mobilise the various actors that make up social and economic groups. EAVI engages schools, families, public institutions, civil society groups and media professionals in order to achieve this.
Media literacy is increasingly relevant because knowledge is now, primarily, transferred through digital technologies. Individuals who are media literate are able to engage and participate at every level of public life, from social networking to e-Government. Individuals who are not equipped with these skills are left isolated and vulnerable.
The promotion of media literacy activities in the socio-economic, cultural and technological spheres will deliver a strategic value to Member States and the European Union in cultural, democratic and economic terms. It plays a key role in advancing the collective intelligence of a population – engendering cultural and educational participation to enable not only social development, but also economic progress and competitiveness of the internal and international markets.
It is EAVI’s core belief that the promotion of media literacy presents an opportunity for the media to enrich progress and advance society; citizens are able, through the media, to find opportunities to grow and enhance their awareness of their society, to imagine alternative futures and to create new worlds.
EU Policies on Media Literacy
The European Commission has adopted the following definition:
“Media literacy may be defined as the ability to access, analyse and evaluate the power of images, sounds and messages which we are now being confronted with on a daily basis and are an important part of our contemporary culture, as well as to communicate competently in media available on a personal basis. Media literacy relates to all media, including television and film, radio and recorded music, print media, the Internet and other new digital communication technologies.”
- European Commission, Report on the Results of the Public Consultation on Media Literacy, 2007
It was on similar lines that the Commission further stated that:
“The aim of media literacy is to increase awareness of the many forms of media messages encountered in everyday life. It should help citizens to recognise how the media filter their perceptions and beliefs, shape popular culture and influence personal choices. It should empower them with the critical thinking and creative problem-solving skills to make the judicious consumers and producers of content. […] On the basis of media’s crucial role in today’s society, the Communication insists on the importance of a high or higher degree of media literacy.”
- European Commission, A European Approach to Media Literacy in the Digital Environment, 2007
EAVI has contributed to the growing regulatory framework relating to media literacy in recent years, with numerous policies falling within the scope on a wide spectrum of activity, reflecting its multifaceted nature.
The concept of media literacy may also be contextualised within two UNESCO advocacies: the human rights-based approach to programming, and the creation of knowledge societies. In this sense, the concept of media literacy may be encompassed under the idea of Education for Sustainable Development included in the United Nations’ Principles, of which UNESCO is the lead agency. The aim is to integrate the principles, values and practices of sustainable development into all aspects of education and learning – including, necessarily, media literacy.
EAVI’s Campaign for Media Literacy Initiatives
With its wealth of experience and knowledge in this relatively new discipline, EAVI is expert in media literacy, and is well placed to advise institutions and individuals as to how to a media literate population might be achieved.
EAVI works with all players, from international institutions to individuals, playing particular attention to the interdisciplinary analysis of issues relating to the impact of media literacy on young people.
With empowered, informed citizens, the European Union is stronger. New media will be the defining element of our generation and we must equip and empower our citizens to meet the challenges that it has presented and to make the most of the opportunities it provides.