EU takes up the challenge of citizen's media literacy

Getting the most from all the advantages provided by today's high-tech information society is an important challenge from the point of view of the European Commission. The way we use media is changing, the volume of information is enormous and increasingly demanding. For that reason, the Commission has adopted a set of guidelines calling for an intensification of the actions on media literacy.

Taking part in today's information society, demands high understanding about how the various media, either old ornew, actually work. For that reason, the Commission adopted on August 20th 2009, following the European Parliament's call, a set of policy guidelines calling on EU countries and industry to promote media literacy across Europe through activities that help people access, understand and critically evaluate all media they are exposed to, like TV and film, radio, music, print media, the internet and digital communication technologies.

Media literacy training could improve the way citizens use search engines, show school children how a film is made or how advertising works. Education is a national competence, but the Commission today invited EU countries to open a debate on how to give media literacy a prominent place in schools.

In some countries (for example Sweden, Ireland, UK) media literacy is already part of the school curriculum. The UK's kidSMART website teaches young people how to use social networking sites safely.

As Information Society and Media Commissioner Viviane Reding highlighted, “media, especially new digital technologies, involve more Europeans in a world of sharing, interaction and creation.  Consumers today can create their own content and make new works by transforming third party content. However, people who cannot use new media like social networks or digital TV will find it hard to interact with and take part in the world around them”.

Digital literacy, a key element for media literacy

In 2007, the Commission issued a Communication on media literacy as part of its overall efforts to build a Single Market for the audiovisual sector, which also includes the Audiovisual Media Services Directive providing cross border rules on areas like advertising, and the MEDIA 2007 support programme for European cinema. The Commission also promotes media literacy through film literacy projects under its MEDIA International preparatory action. This initiative encourages actions to educate and raise awareness, especially of the young generation, about cinematographic and audiovisual works of third countries and vice versa.

The Commission's "Digital Europe" report, released earlier this month shows that Europeans are becoming more skilful internet and computers users, with 60% "digitally literate", an essential aspect of media literacy. 56% of all Europeans go online at least once a week (compared to 43% in 2005) and more people in disadvantaged groups are using the net.

Besides, people using media need to be aware of the risks connected to the spread of their personal data. The more skilled they are in using these technologies, the safer they are about how online advertising works, the better they can protect their privacy. People who are more media literate will also be more curious about and explore their cultural heritage and recent European cultural works.