Today, the European Union released a set of recommendations “on media literacy in the digital environment for a more competitive audiovisual and content industry and an inclusive knowledge society.” This follows a communication on media literacy released at the end of 2007, which was a first step towards creating a unified audiovisual policy across the EU as relates to media literacy in advertising, film and the Internet. And earlier this month, the commission released a report called Digital Europe, the findings of which included indications that people with lower education levels go online more frequently.
I’m happy to admit that all this news made me positively giddy, most specifically that the European Union is putting so much focus on media literacy. The reports rightly recognize that media literacy is a key to a stronger economy and more inclusive society, taking it far beyond the argument that it promotes Internet safety. (At The LAMP, we call it cyber wellness, as ‘Internet safety’ seems to immediately conjure images of danger that are not very productive.) I have personally found that this point is constantly invoked in the “selling” of media literacy here in America, and while there are many perfectly good reasons for this, increased Internet safety is not the only reason for media literacy. But, items about privacy invasion and harrassment invasion are picked up by the mainstream media faster than you can say ‘ratings,’ so that’s most of what people respond to.
With that, the thing I appreciate most about the recommendations made by the commission is its scope. I struggle to think of anything that has been ignored; the document addresses copyright law, the need for emotional understanding of media, advancement of European heritage and culture, media literacy as economic stimulus, media literacy as a means for building community, the need to preserve the health of the print media industry, and also emphasizes that adults and elderly adults also need to be media literate (not just young people).
All in all, it’s really pretty remarkable. Maybe that’s because I consider media literacy to be a serious passion, and my business. Maybe it’s because I was annoyed at reading that President Obama is appearing in a documentarywith Kelly Clarkson, and his remarks have no substance beyond telling kids to study hard. At moments like this, I feel like I live in some kind of Twilight Zone, where my part of the world exists on a plane that is totally different from where everyone else lives. (PS, I know I exaggerate here.)
Your call to action is to let your representatives know that media literacy is a priority. Write or call your New York City Council representative, New York State Senator, or, if you’re not in New York, reach out to elected officials for your area. Tell them it’s time they started to see what legislators around the world see, and ask them to fund media literacy.