Rise of internet spurs EU media literacy campaign

21 Dec 2007

The European Commission is to champion the cause of media literacy in 2008.

With digital media platforms like blogs, search engines and interactive TV becoming mainstream, media literacy is seen as crucial to ensuring full EU citizenship, the commission said.

It has issued a Communication on media literacy to member states that focuses on three specific areas: media literacy for commercial communication, covering issues related to advertising; media literacy for audiovisual works, which is in part about raising awareness of European film and enhancing creativity skills; and media literacy for the internet, which is aimed at, for example, giving people a better knowledge of how search engines work.

The Communication complements the new Audiovisual Media Services Without Frontiers Directive and the Media 2007 support programme for the development and distribution of European film. A study will be conducted in 2008 on how to assess media literacy levels and will feed into the report on the levels of media literacy provided by the new Audiovisual Media Services Without Frontiers Directive.

The commission has called on member states to encourage their regulatory authorities to become more involved and to co-operate further in improving people’s level of media literacy. It has expressed willingness to help develop and implement codes of conduct and co-regulation frameworks with member states at national level.

“In a digital era, media literacy is crucial for achieving full and active citizenship,” said Information Society and Media Commissioner, Viviane Reding. “The ability to read and write – or traditional literacy – is no longer sufficient in this day and age. People need a greater awareness of how to express themselves effectively and how to interpret what others are saying, especially on blogs, via search engines or in advertising. Everyone (old and young) needs to get to grips with the new digital world in which we live. For this, continuous information and education is more important than regulation.

“I believe that, especially with regard to advertising, promoting media literacy is a much more appropriate approach than advocating advertising bans, which I oppose,” she added.

The Commission Communication on media literacy follows a survey held last year that received contributions from media organisations and industry, education institutions, content providers and producers, research and cultural institutions, regulators, citizens and consumers’ associations.

By Niall Byrne