Media literacy

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Media literacy is a repertoire of competencies that enable people to analyze, evaluate, and create messages in a wide variety of media modes, genres, and formats.


The terms 'media literacy' and 'media education' are used synonymously in most English-speaking nations. Many scholars and educators consider media literacy to be an expanded conceptualization of literacy. In 1993, a gathering of the media literacy community in the United States developed a definition of media literacy as the ability to access, analyze, evaluate and create messages in a wide variety of forms.

Media literacy has a long history and over the years a number of different terms have been used to capture the skills, competencies, knowledge and habits of mind that are required for full participation in media-saturated societies. In England, the term "media education" is used to define the process of teaching and learning about media.[1] It is about developing people's critical and creative abilities when it comes to mass media, popular culture and digital media. Media education is the process and media literacy is the outcome, but neither term should be confused with educational technology or with educational media. When people understand media and technology, they are able to access, analyze, evaluate, and create messages in a wide variety of media, genres, and forms.

Education for media literacy often uses an inquiry-based pedagogic model that encourages people to ask questions about what they watch, hear, and read. Media literacy education provides tools to help people critically analyze messages, offers opportunities for learners to broaden their experience of media, and helps them develop creative skills in making their own media messages.[2] Critical analysis can include identifying author, purpose and point of view, examining construction techniques and genres, examining patterns of media representation, and detecting propaganda, censorship, and bias in news and public affairs programming (and the reasons for these). Media literacy education may explore how structural features—such as media ownership, or its funding model[3]—affect the information presented.

In North America and Europe, media literacy includes both empowerment and protectionist perspectives.[4] Media literate people should be able to skillfully create and produce media messages, both to show understanding of the specific qualities of each medium, as well as to create independent media and participate as active citizens. Media literacy can be seen as contributing to an expanded conceptualization of literacy, treating mass media, popular culture and digital media as new types of 'texts' that require analysis and evaluation. By transforming the process of media consumption into an active and critical process, people gain greater awareness of the potential for misrepresentation and manipulation (especially through commercials and public relations techniques), and understand the role of mass media and participatory media in constructing views of reality.[5]

Media literacy education is sometimes conceptualized as a way to address the negative dimensions of mass media, popular culture and digital media, including media violence, gender and racial stereotypes, the sexualization of children, and concerns about loss of privacy, cyberbullying and Internet predators. By building knowledge and competencies in using media and technology, media literacy education may provide a type of protection to children and young people by helping them make good choices in their media consumption habits, and patterns of usage.[6]

Concepts of media education[edit]

David Buckingham has come up with four key concepts that "provide a theoretical framework which can be applied to the whole range of contemporary media and to 'older' media as well: Production, Language, Representation, and Audience."[1] These concepts are defined by David Buckingham as follows:


Media texts are consciously made.[1] Some are made by individuals working alone, just for themselves or their family and friends, but most are produced and distributed by groups of people often for commercial profit. Economic interests and the generation of profit are often at stake in media production..[1]

Studying media production means looking at:

  • Technologies: what technologies are used to produce and distribute media texts?
  • Professional practices: Who makes media texts?
  • The industry: Who owns the companies that buy and sell media and how do they make a profit?
  • Connections between media: How do companies sell the same products across different media?
  • Regulation: Who controls the production and distribution of media, and are there laws about this?
  • Circulation and distribution: How do texts reach their audiences?
  • Access and participation: Whose voices are heard in the media and whose are excluded?[1]


Every medium has its own combination of languages that it uses to communicate meaning. For example, television uses verbal and written language as well as the languages of moving images and sound. Particular kinds of music or camera angles may be used to encourage certain emotions. When it comes to verbal language, making meaningful statements in media languages involves "paradigmatic choices" and "syntagmatic combinations".[1] By analyzing these languages, one can come to a better understanding of how meanings are created.[1]

Studying media languages means looking at:

  • Meanings: How does media use different forms of language to convey ideas or meanings?
  • Conventions: How do these uses of languages become familiar and generally accepted?
  • Codes: How are the grammatical 'rules' of media established and what happens when they are broken?
  • Genres: How do these conventions and codes operate in different types of media contexts?
  • Choices: What are the effects of choosing certain forms of language, such as a certain type of camera shot?
  • Combinations: How is meaning conveyed through the combination or sequencing of images, sounds, or words?
  • Technologies: How do technologies affect the meanings that can be created?[1]


The notion of 'representation' is one of the first established principles of media education. Media offers viewers a facilitated outlook of the world and a re-representation of reality. Media production involves selecting and combining incidents, making events into stories, and creating characters. Media representations allow viewers to see the world in some particular ways and not others. Audiences also compare media with their own experiences and make judgements about how realistic they are. Media representations can be seen as real in some ways but not in others: viewers may understand that what they are seeing is only imaginary and yet they still know it can explain reality.[1]

Studying media representations means looking at:

  • Realism: Is this text intended to be realistic? Why do some texts seem more realistic than others?
  • Telling the truth: How do media claim to tell the truth about the world?
  • Presence and absence: What is included and excluded from the media world?
  • Bias and objectivity: Do media texts support particular views about the world? Do they use moral or political values?
  • Stereotyping: How do media represent particular social groups? Are those representations accurate?
  • Interpretations: Why do audiences accept some media representations as true, or reject others as false?
  • Influences: Do media representations affect our views of particular social groups or issues?[1]


Studying audiences means looking at how demographic audiences are targeted and measured, and how media are circulated and distributed throughout. It looks at different ways in which individuals use, interpret, and respond to media. The media increasingly have had to compete for people's attention and interest because research has shown that audiences are now much more sophisticated and diverse than has been suggested in the past decades. Debating views about audiences and attempting to understand and reflect on our own and others' use of media is therefore a crucial element of media education.[1]

Studying media audiences means looking at:

  • Targeting: How are media aimed at particular audiences?
  • Address: How do the media speak to audiences?
  • Circulation: How do media reach audiences?
  • Uses: How do audiences use media in their daily lives? What are their habits and patterns of use?
  • Making sense: How do audiences interpret media? What meanings do they make?
  • Pleasures: What pleasures do audiences gain from media?
  • Social differences: What is the role of gender. social class, age, and ethnic background in audience behavior?[1]

To elaborate on the concepts presented by David Buckingham, Henry Jenkins discusses the emergence of a participatory culture, in which our students are actively engaged.[7] With the emergence of this participatory culture, schools must focus on what Jenkins calls the "new media literacies", that is a set of cultural competencies and social skills that young people need in the new media landscape.[7] In the new media literacies we see a shift in focus from individual expression to community involvement, involving the development of social skills through collaboration and networking.[7] Jenkins lists the following skills, as essential for students in this new media landscape:

  • Play: The capacity to experiment with the surroundings as a form of problem solving.
  • Performance: The ability to adopt alternative identities for the purpose of improvisation and discovery.
  • Simulation: The ability to interpret and construct dynamic models of real world processes.
  • Appropriation: The ability to meaningfully sample and remix media content.
  • Multitasking: The ability to scan the environment and shift focus onto salient details.
  • Distributed Cognition: The ability to interact meaningfully with tools that expand mental capacities.
  • Collective Intelligence: The ability to pool knowledge and compare notes with others toward a common goal.
  • Judgement: The ability to evaluate the reliability and credibility of different information sources.
  • Transmedia Navigation: The ability to follow the flow of stories and information across multiple modalities.
  • Networking: The ability to search for, synthesize, and disseminate information.
  • Negotiation: The ability to travel across diverse communities, discerning and respecting multiple perspectives, and grasping and following alternative norms.[7]

Media education approaches[edit]

Jeff Share (2002) has categorized the different approaches to media education to fit into 4 different areas. These are the protectionist approach, media arts education, media literacy movement, and critical media literacy (of which he is an advocate). The protectionist approach views audiences of mass media as dupes of the media, vulnerable to cultural, ideological or moral influences, and needing protection by education. The media arts education approach focuses on creative production of different media forms by learners. The media literacy movement is an attempt to bring traditional aspects of literacy from the educational sphere and apply it to media.

Media arts education[edit]

An arts-based approach to media education falls into related but distinct traditions. A longstanding emphasis is associated with traditions of Film Education, which typically place a central focus on film as an art-form, on its aesthetic and cultural value, and on the creative processes of young people's film-making. A study commissioned by the European Commission, led by the British Film Institute, shows how these values are generally supported across European countries.[8] In spite of such support by educators, however, the study shows that most European countries allocate few resources or curriculum emphasis to film education.

More generally, a media arts approach has been developed as a cross-curricular model, most conspicuously in a group of UK schools adopting the UK government's 1997 option to specialize in media arts, an approach documented by Andrew Burn and James Durran.[9] This account exemplifies how creative production work in media art forms such as comicstrip, animation, television, film and videogames promotes the cultural, critical and creative aspects of media literacy. It also models the use of the media arts beyond the literacy curriculum, in subjects such as Geography and Science. Meanwhile, a third strand of media arts work foregrounds the digital aspect of contemporary media arts, associating creative media production with programming and computer science.[10]

Critical media literacy[edit]

Critical media literacy is defined originally by Douglas Kellner and Share in "Critical Media Literacy is Not an Option", as "an educational response that expands the notion of literacy to include different forms of mass communication, popular culture, and new technologies. It deepens the potential of literacy education to critically analyze relationships between media and audiences, information, and power. Along with this mainstream analysis, alternative media production empowers students to create their own messages that can challenge media texts and narratives."[11] Critical media literacy aims to analyze and understand the power structures that lay within the media and understand the underpinnings of the politics that go into representation of gender, race, class and sexuality in the media.. This approach is different than "media literacy" because it critically works to understand that there are dominant power structures that audiences work to make meaning between the dominant, oppositional and negotiated readings of media.[11]

Within society there are many different ideologies functioning throughout our everyday lives. Stuart Hall discusses ideologies to exist around every aspect of life not just functioning separately and isolated, that they are understood by the individual but created collectively, and that they function in our lives as lived truth not just something that one individual made up. Within the context of critical media literacy, this is important to understand because there are believed to be ideologies that govern the makeup of our social institutions, government and every day lived lives and an important way to criticize or make these ideologies known would be to apply critical thinking to media literacy.[12] The benefit to this approach is for audiences to engage with and analyze dominant readings and codes within media; contributing to a better understanding of the world's "social realities".[11] Instead of taking an image as it is, the audience can understand the history of the characteristics within the image and make meaning in various ways to understand how a more broad, realistic, audience would interpret and from there learn how to make oppositional media artifacts to provide that alternative reading.

According to, Media literacy is the ability to access, analyze, evaluate, and create media. Media literate youth and adults are better able to understand the complex messages we receive from television, radio, Internet, newspapers, magazines, books, billboards, video games, music, and all other forms of media. Media literacy skills are included in the educational standards of every state—in language arts, social studies, health, science, and other subjects. Many educators have discovered that media literacy is an effective and engaging way to apply critical thinking skills to a wide range of issues.[13]

In "Critical Media Literacy is Not an Option",[11]:3 critical media literacy is defined by Douglas Kellner and Share as an educational response that expands the notion of literacy to include different forms of mass communication, popular culture, and new technologies. It deepens the potential of literacy education to critically analyze relationships between media and audiences, information, and power. Along with this mainstream analysis, alternative media production empowers students to create their own messages that can challenge media texts and narratives. The type of critical media literacy that we propose includes aspects of the three previous Models, but focuses on ideology critique and analyzing the politics of representation of crucial dimensions of gender, race, class, and sexuality; incorporating alternative media production; and expanding textual analysis to include issues of social context, control, resistance, and pleasure.

We often find ourselves using the skills of critical media literacy without even noticing while watching television, using social media, reading books, listening to music, etc., which allows us to interpret the messages that they are conveying and apply them to ourselves and our lives. By using this strategy, we can use it to contribute to social change and activism. As stated by Douglas Kellner in Cultural Studies, Multiculturalism, and Media Culture, "The gaining of critical media literacy is an important resource for individuals and citizens in learning how to cope with a seductive cultural environment. Learning how to read, criticize, and resist sociocultural manipulation can help one empower oneself in relation to dominant forms of media and culture."[14] There are multiple different ways that you can analyze, interpret, and evaluate media texts, specifically critical visual analysis and audience research. Critical visual analysis is different then visual analysis because of its interdisciplinary way of critical analyzing the frame of reference of a visual artifact and the power structures that are embedded in it.[15] This is a great way to utilize critical media literacy in the classroom. As for an example of audience research, Kellner says "Fandoms of all sorts, from Star Trek fans ("Trekkies"/"Trekkers") to devotees of various soap operas, reality shows, or current highly popular TV series, also form communities that enable them to relate to others who share their interests and hobbies."[14] Audience reception is important within critical media literacy because it offers the understanding that the audience will take in various forms of media and make meaning of them. A viewer is different than the audience because a viewer is just an individual who makes meaning, where the audience is a collective whole.[16] The differences comes into play when one does research using the skills of critical media literacy. In order to understand a piece of media it is absolutely essential to make meaning of the audience and ask questions of who is this targeted at, focused on, and who is viewing it.

As interventions[edit]

Proponents of media literacy education, such as the National Association for Media Literacy Education, argue that the inclusion of media literacy into school curriculum promotes civic engagement, increases awareness of the power structures inherent in popular media and aids students in gaining the necessary critical and inquiry skills needed in today's society. Educators have argued for decades that teaching media literacy in the classroom is crucial in shaping critical thinkers, well-informed citizens and conscientious consumers.[17] There is a growing body of research focusing on the impacts of media literacy on students. In an important meta-analysis of more than 50 studies published in the Journal of Communication, media literacy interventions were found to have positive effects on knowledge, criticism, perceived realism, influence, behavioral beliefs, attitudes, self-efficacy, and behavior.[18]

As student health interventions[edit]

The critical thinking skills that are often the basis of media literacy education can be utilized to decrease substance abuse in adolescents. A correlative study examined the relationship between skills commonly taught in media literacy programs, specifically the ability to critically deconstruct media messages, and adolescent's intent to use substances.[19] The study found that students who were better able to critically examine and decode media messages reported that they were less likely to use drugs and alcohol in the future. Given that youth exposure to media that features substance use can predict the likelihood of alcohol and drug use,[20] the findings suggest that media literacy programs may be a valuable tool for preventing harmful adolescent health behavior.

Furthermore, media literacy education has been shown to be a valuable tool in combatting childhood obesity and promoting healthy consumer habits.[21] 140 fifth grade Taiwanese students participated in a study that examined the effects of a food advertising literacy program on food purchasing habits. Lessons included in the media literacy program introduced marketing strategies surrounding food advertisements, learning how to evaluate the nutritional value of advertised foods and encouraging students to use marketing tactics to promote healthy food among their peers. The results of the study found that compared to students who did not receive the program, students who had completed the food literacy program showed significantly greater improvements in nutritional food knowledge, food purchasing behavior and food advertising literacy. However, after a 1-month follow up students showed a decrease in the above-mentioned categories.

As a violence-prevention strategy[edit]

Media literacy programs can be a violence-prevention strategy.[22] Results from a study conducted in a Los Angeles high school found that introducing a curriculum aimed at deconstructing violence in the media can significantly increase adolescent's "critical thinking skills and knowledge about violence in the media and real world."[23] The study used a self-report survey to compare participant's knowledge and attitudes surrounding violence pre-intervention and post-intervention. They found that students significantly increased their competency and knowledge of the violence-prevention curriculum Beyond Blame: Challenging Violence in the Media, which was implemented for the intervention. However, participants did not report a significant change in attitude, beliefs and behavior surrounding violence. In this case, knowledge concerning the representation of violence in media did not lead to a direct change in adolescent's perception of violence, a gap that should be further explored in future studies.

As gender stereotype intervention[edit]

A recent study examines the effects of a media literacy program geared at exploring gender stereotypes expressed in the media on middle school students.[24] The research measured the extent to which participants learned to be critical consumers of media, especially in regards to stereotypical portrayals of men and women. Results were gathered through student surveys administered pre-intervention and post-intervention and concluded that participants who received the intervention were more likely to believe that the media influences the way people think about men and women and that the media reinforces gender stereotypes in regards to occupation.

Promoting positive body image[edit]

Media literacy can be an effective tool for addressing issues surrounding women's body image.[25] In a study conducted among female college students, participants were shown a 25 minute video that exposes how the advertising industry influences female body image, particularly the messages that certain media texts are sending to viewers about how an ideal woman should look. The study found that participants who watched the video reported greater satisfaction with their body, meaning the difference between their perceived body type and their ideal body type was much smaller compared to those who did not watch the video.

The above studies used self-report post-treatment surveys in order to gather their data. The limitations of this measure is that data collected about student behavior and experience is self-reported and can easily be distorted. Participants can exaggerate their responses, claiming that the media literacy lessons were more impactful than they actually were. For example, in a survey that is administered directly after the intervention and asks participants to report how likely they are to use drugs and alcohol in the future, a student may respond that they are less likely to use substances in order to please the researcher and to meet the expectations of what they believe were the goals of the intervention. A useful consideration for further research would be to use alternative measures such as administering follow up surveys several months later and asking students how many times they used drugs and alcohol in the past several months. This may work to lessen the likelihood of students predicting their own behavior inaccurately by focusing on what they have concretely done in the past, such as how many times they have used drugs and alcohol in the past three moths. Furthermore, additional follow-up studies could be conducted in order to gain information of the longitudinal effects of media literacy programs.

There is a wealth of research regarding youth exposure to media in all its forms. There are numerous articles seeking to explore the consequences of such exposure on adolescent behavior, but there are surprisingly few studies that explore the efficacy of certain tools that can be used to combat the harmful consequences of media exposure.[21] Media literacy education is purported to lessen the negative impacts of media exposure, but precious few studies have been conducted to prove the statement.[26] Perhaps further evidence demonstrating the benefits of media literacy as an intervention would encourage more educators to embrace the practice and incorporate programs into the classroom.

UNESCO and media education[edit]

UNESCO has supported a number of initiatives to introduce media and information literacy as an important part of lifelong learning.[27] Most recently, the UNESCO Action for Media Education and Literacy brought together experts from numerous regions of the world to "catalyze processes to introduce media and information literacy components into teacher training curricula worldwide."[27]

UNESCO questionnaire[edit]

In 2001, a media education survey by UNESCO investigated which countries were incorporating media studies into different schools' curricula, as well as to help develop new initiatives in the field of media education. A questionnaire was sent to a total of 72 experts on media education in 52 different countries around the world. The people who received this questionnaire were people involved in academics (such as teachers), policy makers, and educational advisers. The questionnaire addressed three key areas:

  1. "Media education in schools: the extent, aims, and conceptual basis of current provision; the nature of assessment; and the role of production by students."[28]
  2. "Partnerships: the involvement of media industries and media regulators in media education; the role of informal youth groups; the provision of teacher education."[27]
  3. "The development of media education: research and evaluation of media education provision; the main needs of educators; obstacles to future development; and the potential contribution of UNESCO."[27]

The results from the answers of the survey were double-sided. It was noted that media education had been making a very uneven progress because while in one country there was an abundant amount of work towards media education, another country may have hardly even heard of the concept. One of the main reasons why media education has not taken full swing in some countries is because of the lack of policy makers addressing the issue. In some developing countries, educators say that media education was only just beginning to register as a concern because they were just starting to develop basic print literacy.[27]

In the countries where media education existed at all, it would be offered as an elective class or an optional area of the school system rather than being on its own. Many countries argued that media education should not be a separate part of the curriculum but rather should be added to a subject already established. The countries which deemed media education as a part of the curriculum included the United States, Canada, Mexico, New Zealand, and Australia. Many countries lacked even just basic research on media education as a topic, including Russia and Sweden. Some said that popular culture is not worthy enough of study. But all of the correspondents realized the importance of media education as well as the importance of formal recognition from their government and policy makers that media education should be taught in schools.[27]


Media literacy education is actively focused on the instructional methods and pedagogy of media literacy, integrating theoretical and critical frameworks rising from constructivist learning theory, media studies and cultural studies scholarship. This work has arisen from a legacy of media and technology use in education throughout the 20th century and the emergence of cross-disciplinary work at the intersections of scholarly work in media studies and education. Voices of Media Literacy, a project of the Center for Media Literacy representing first-person interviews with media literacy pioneers active prior to 1990 in English-speaking countries, provides historical context for the rise of the media literacy field and is available at Media education is developing in Great Britain, Australia, South Africa, Canada, the United States, with a growing interest in the Netherlands, Italy, Greece, Austria, Switzerland, India, Russia and among many other nations. UNESCO has played an important role in supporting media and information literacy by encouraging the development of national information and media literacy policies, including in education[29] UNESCO has developed training resources to help teachers integrate information and media literacy into their teaching and provide them with appropriate pedagogical methods and curricula.


Media Clubs in schools is a Central Institute of Educational Technology, NCERT project to promote media literacy in India. The project was launched in 2009–2010. This project in fact is the extension of projects undertaken on media literacy in the year 2007–2008 and 2008–2009. The first phase of the project focused on the mapping of Media Literacy initiatives across the world. A document was prepared titled "Media Literacy initiatives across the world". The document is the collation of print and electronic material available on media literacy initiatives in various part of the world. In case of India, various experts from the field of media, media educators and media literacy experts were interviewed and a comprehensive print report was prepared. In addition to the print report three video programs on media literacy initiatives in India were produced. This phase was followed by the second phase in which reading material was prepared for students as well as teachers. School teachers were also trained in media literacy. Various media educators and the experts handling media literacy projects were invited to share their experiences with the teachers. The training programs were huge success with more than 100 teachers being trained in face to face mode. That was the first time in India when such training programs on media literacy were organized for teachers. Thereafter, media studies as a subject was introduced in schools as a pilot project. The recently launched third phase (2010–2011) is the extension of discussion held in first and second phases with the teachers. Teachers who were open to the idea of having media discourse at school level were quite apprehensive of having it in the form of another new subject. According to them introduction of new subject would add to the curriculum load and also they shared their unpreparedness to handle this subject. Then came the concept of establishing media clubs in Schools. At present in India there are around 100 media clubs which are running successfully. These media clubs will be mentoring new media clubs next year. More on Media Clubs by the coordinator, Media Literacy Project, India at Media studies as a subject has entered the boundaries of schools in India little late but at last. Disregarding media from the school curriculum has always bothered many experts who are working in the field of media studies. Many initiatives were started to introduce children, parents and teachers to the concepts of media studies but all happened out of schools. One of the key point made by the NCF 2005 i.e. connecting knowledge to the life outside the school, has actually opened the door for media studies, a subject which has never in the past was given its due importance in school curriculum. It was realized that students’ media experiences are as important as their experience with their parents, peers and teachers and by allowing them to bring their media experiences in classroom, a creative environment can be created where they could get a chance to discuss issues which are very integral to their life. It will enable the students to see behind the screen and read between the lines and to be an active citizen of the world's largest democracy. The vision of democracy articulated by the Secondary Education Commission (1952) is worth recalling here and how media understanding fits into the vision is motivating enough for those who would be interested in taking this initiative forward. "Citizenship in a democracy involves many intellectual, social and moral qualities... a democratic citizen should have the understanding and the intellectual integrity to sift truth from falsehood, facts from propaganda and to reject the dangerous appeal of fanaticism and prejudice…This is what media literacy initiatives world over propagates. The strategies to implement them may vary in different countries but the idea is to make students to reflect critically on media issues. It entails the acceptance of multiple views on social issues and commitment to democratic forms of interaction and helps children to see issues from different perspectives and understand how such issues are connected to their lives. The content and language of media products provide ways of looking at the world. The media is a hidden curriculum for students which should be explored. This has been explored in many countries and is called by various names in different parts of the world like television literacy, critical viewership skills, critical viewing skills. These projects were started with the initiative of an individual or small group and later on it attracted like minded people and became success. In fact a media study is one of the fastest growing subject which need to be introduced not only at college or university level but also at school level. Undoubtedly it is important to engage students in media discourse and the subject needs to be taken to school but then it has its own challenges. First, most teachers are unfamiliar with the subject and are poorly equipped to teach this subject as the subject is not a part of Bachelor of Education or Master of education curriculum. Second, introduction of one more subject may increase curriculum load on students. Keeping in view the need for media discourse at school level and the challenges, a media club in school can provide a solution. Both media educators and teachers can be involved in setting up and running of the Media Clubs. A community based learning (CBL) approach is proposed with the goal of engaging multiple elements involved in the community in learning process including local newspaper, channels, colleges, parents and teachers. At present Media clubs are running in Delhi, Kerela and West Bengal. In year 2011–2012 project will be extended to all states in India. The purpose is to promote media literacy across the nation. Participation of other states in this project will have the following benefits: Sharing of the experience of already established media clubs with other states. Participating states can get information on development and planning aspect of media clubs from the Delhi experience. States can share their experiences and handle state specific issues while talking about media literacy. Students and teachers of different states will be connected with each other while working on media literacy projects.[30]

United Kingdom[edit]

Education for what is now termed media literacy has been developing in the UK since at least the 1930s. In the 1960s, there was a paradigm shift in the field of media literacy to emphasize working within popular culture rather than trying to convince people that popular culture was primarily destructive. This was known as the popular arts paradigm. In the 1970s, there came a recognition that the ideological power of the media was tied to the naturalization of the image. Constructed messages were being passed off as natural ones. The focus of media literacy also shifted to the consumption of images and representations, also known as the representational paradigm.[31] Development has gathered pace since the 1970s when the first formal courses in Film Studies and, later, Media Studies, were established as options for young people in the 14-19 age range: over 100,000 students (about 5% of this age range) now take these courses annually. Scotland has always had a separate education system from the rest of the UK and began to develop policies for media education in the 1980s. In England, the creation of the National Curriculum in 1990 included some limited requirements for teaching about the media as part of English. In Scotland teachers are represented by the professional association AMES (Association of Media Educators, Scotland); while in England the MEA (Media Education Association) fulfils this purpose.

The UK is widely regarded as a leader in the development of education for media literacy. Key agencies that have been involved in this development include the British Film Institute,[32] the English and Media Centre[33] Film Education[34] the Centre for the Study of Children, Youth and Media at the Institute of Education, London,[35] and the DARE centre (Digital Arts Research Education), a collaboration between University College London and the British Film Institute.[36]


In Australia, media education was influenced by developments in Britain related to the inoculation, popular arts and demystification approaches. Key theorists who influenced Australian media education were Graeme Turner and John Hartley who helped develop Australian media and cultural studies. During the 1980s and 1990s, Western Australians Robyn Quin and Barrie MacMahon wrote seminal text books such as Real Images, translating many complex media theories into classroom appropriate learning frameworks. In most Australian states, media is one of five strands of the Arts Key Learning Area and includes "essential learnings" or "outcomes" listed for various stages of development. At the senior level (years 11 and 12), several states offer Media Studies as an elective. For example, many Queensland schools offer Film, Television and New Media, while Victorian schools offer VCE Media. Media education is supported by the teacher professional association Australian Teachers of Media. With the introduction of a new Australian National Curriculum, schools are beginning to implement media education as part of the arts curriculum, using media literacy as a means to educate students how to deconstruct, construct and identify themes in media.


In South Africa, the increasing demand for Media Education has evolved from the dismantling of apartheid and the 1994 democratic elections. The first national Media Education conference in South Africa was actually held in 1990 and the new national curriculum has been in the writing stages since 1997. Since this curriculum strives to reflect the values and principles of a democratic society there seems to be an opportunity for critical literacy and Media Education in Languages and Culture courses.

Professor Ralph A. Akinfeleye, Ph.D,[37] points out that there have been many strides taken to use media to educate and expose South Africans to sexuality. This new openness has led to more sex scenes in movies, a boost in sales for the pornography industry, and an increase in sex shops. Although many newspapers are attempting to shed light on important issues related to sexuality, such as women's sexual rights, many people in South Africa are still hesitant to the media openness. One of the main issues that critics point out with the openness to sexuality in the media is the presentation of scholarly articles related to sexuality in print media next to pictures of women dressed scandalously trying to sell something, and how this sends mixed signals about sexuality to viewers. In addition, South Africa is faced with trying to balance its newfound popularity of sex with providing a safe environment that does not spread HIV/AIDS and sexual violence, two issues that South Africa has been plagued with in the past. Although there are issues that South Africa is facing in the adjustment to this new openness of sexuality in the media, the steps being taken to educate the public about issues with sexuality in South Africa is a huge move towards Media Education.


In areas of Europe, media education has seen many different forms. Media education was introduced into the Finnish elementary curriculum in 1970 and into high schools in 1977. But the media education we know today did not evolve in Finland until the 1990s. Media education has been compulsory in Sweden since 1980 and in Denmark since 1970. In both these countries, media education evolved in the 1980s and 1990s as media education gradually moved away from moralizing attitudes towards an approach that is more searching and pupil-centered. In 1994, the Danish education bill gave recognition to media education but it is still not an integrated part of the school. The focus in Denmark seems to be on information technology.

France has taught film from the inception of the medium, but it has only been recently that conferences and media courses for teachers have been organized with the inclusion of media production. Germany saw theoretical publications on media literacy in the 1970s and 1980s, with a growing interest for media education inside and outside the educational system in the 80s and 90s. In the Netherlands media literacy was placed in the agenda by the Dutch government in 2006 as an important subject for the Dutch society. In April, 2008, an official center has been created (mediawijsheid expertisecentrum = medialiteracy expertisecenter) by the Dutch government. This center is more a network organization existing out of different partners who have their own expertise with the subject of media education. The idea is that media education will become a part of the official curriculum.

The history of media education in Russia goes back to the 1920s. The first attempts to instruct in media education (on the press and film materials, with the vigorous emphasis on the communist ideology) appeared in the 1920s but were stopped by Joseph Stalin’s repressions. The end of the 1950s - the beginning of the 1960s was the time of the revival of media education in secondary schools, universities, after-school children centers (Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Voronezh, Samara, Kurgan, Tver, Rostov on Don, Taganrog, Novosibirsk, Ekaterinburg, etc.), the revival of media education seminars and conferences for the teachers. During the time when the intensive rethinking of media education approaches was on the upgrade in the Western hemisphere, in Russia of the 1970s–1980s media education was still developing within the aesthetic concept. Among the important achievements of 1970s-1990s one can recall the first official programs of film and media education, published by Ministry of Education, increasing interest of Ph.D. to media education, experimental theoretic and practical work on media education by O.Baranov (Tver), S.Penzin (Voronezh), G.Polichko, U.Rabinovich (Kurgan), Y.Usov (Moscow), Alexander Fedorov (Taganrog), A.Sharikov (Moscow) and others. The important events in media education development in Russia are the registration of the new specialization (since 2002) for the pedagogical universities – ‘Media Education’ (№ 03.13.30), and the launch of a new academic journal ‘Media Education’ (since January 2005), partly sponsored by the ICOS UNESCO ‘Information for All’. Additionally, the Internet sites of Russian Association for Film and Media Education (English and Russian versions) were created. Taking into account the fact that UNESCO defines media education as the priority field of the cultural educational development in the 21st century, media literacy has good prospects in Russia.


In North America, the beginnings of a formalized approach to media literacy as a topic of education is often attributed to the 1978 formation of the Ontario-based Association for Media Literacy (AML). Before that time, instruction in media education was usually the purview of individual teachers and practitioners. Canada was the first country in North America to require media literacy in the school curriculum. Every province has mandated media education in its curriculum. For example, the new curriculum of Quebec mandates media literacy from Grade 1 until final year of secondary school (Secondary V). The launching of media education in Canada came about for two reasons. One reason was the concern about the pervasiveness of American popular culture and the other was the education system-driven necessity of contexts for new educational paradigms. Canadian communication scholar Marshall McLuhan ignited the North American educational movement for media literacy in the 1950s and 1960s. Two of Canada's leaders in Media Literacy and Media Education are Barry Duncan and John Pungente. Duncan died on June 6, 2012. Even after he retired from classroom teaching, Barry had still been active in media education. Pungente is a Jesuit priest who has promoted media literacy since the early 1960s.

Media Awareness Network (MNet), a Canadian non-profit media education organization, hosts a Web site which contains hundreds of free lesson plans to help teachers integrate media into the classroom. MNet also has created award-winning educational games on media education topics, several of which are available free from the site, and has also conducted original research on media issues, most notable the study Young Canadians in a Wired World. MNet also hosts the Talk Media Blog, a regular column on media education issues.

The United States[edit]

Media literacy education has been an interest in the United States since the early 20th century, when high school English teachers first started using film to develop students' critical thinking and communication skills. However, media literacy education is distinct from simply using media and technology in the classroom, a distinction that is exemplified by the difference between "teaching with media" and "teaching about media."[38] In the 1950s and 60s, the ‘film grammar’ approach to media literacy education developed in the United States, where educators began to show commercial films to children, having them learn a new terminology consisting of words such as fade, dissolve, truck, pan, zoom, and cut. Films were connected to literature and history. To understand the constructed nature of film, students explored plot development, character, mood and tone. Then, during the 1970s and 1980s, attitudes about mass media and mass culture began to shift. Around the English-speaking world, educators began to realize the need to “guard against our prejudice of thinking of print as the only real medium that the English teacher has a stake in.”[39] A whole generation of educators began to not only acknowledge film and television as new, legitimate forms of expression and communication, but also explored practical ways to promote serious inquiry and analysis—- in higher education, in the family, in schools and in society.[40] Typically, U.S. media literacy education includes a focus on news, advertising, issues of representation, and media ownership. Media literacy competencies can also be cultivated in the home, through activities including co-viewing and discussion.[41] In 1976, Project Censored began using a service learning model to cultivate media literacy skills among students and faculty in higher education.[42]

Media literacy education began to appear in state English education curriculum frameworks by the early 1990s as a result of increased awareness in the central role of visual, electronic and digital media in the context of contemporary culture. Nearly all 50 states have language that supports media literacy in state curriculum frameworks.[43] In 2004, Montana developed educational standards around media literacy that students are required to be competent in by grades 4, 8, and 12. Additionally, an increasing number of school districts have begun to develop school-wide programs, elective courses, and other after-school opportunities for media analysis and production.

There is no national data on the reach of media literacy programs in the United States.[44] The evolution of information and communication technologies has expanded the subject of media literacy to incorporate information literacy, collaboration and problem-solving skills, and emphasis on the social responsibilities of communication. Various stakeholders struggle over nuances of meaning associated with the conceptualization of the practice on media literacy education. Educational scholars may use the term critical media literacy to emphasize the exploration of power and ideology in media analysis. Other scholars may use terms like new media literacy to emphasize the application of media literacy to user-generated content or 21st century literacy to emphasize the use of technology tools.[45] As far back as 2001, the Action Coalition for Media Education (ACME) split from the main media literacy organization as the result of debate about whether or not the media industry should support the growth of media literacy education in the United States. Renee Hobbs of Temple University in Philadelphia wrote about this general question as one of the "Seven Great Debates" in media literacy education in an influential 1998 Journal of Communication article.[46]

The media industry has supported media literacy education in the United States. Make Media Matter is one of the many blogs (an “interactive forum”) the Independent Film Channel features as a way for individuals to assess the role media plays in society and the world. The television program, The Media Project, offers a critical look at the state of news media in contemporary society. During the 1990s, the Discovery Channel supported the implementation of Assignment: Media Literacy, a statewide educational initiative for K-12 students developed in collaboration with the Maryland State Board of Education.

Because of the decentralized nature of the education system in a country with 70 million children now in public or private schools, media literacy education develops as the result of groups of advocates in school districts, states or regions who lobby for its inclusion in the curriculum. There is no central authority making nationwide curriculum recommendations and each of the fifty states has numerous school districts, each of which operates with a great degree of independence from one another. However, most U.S. states include media literacy in health education, with an emphasis on understanding environmental influences on health decision-making. Tobacco and alcohol advertising are frequently targeted as objects for "deconstruction, " which is one of the instructional methods of media literacy education. This resulted from an emphasis on media literacy generated by the Clinton White House. The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) held a series of conferences in 1996 and 1997 which brought greater awareness of media literacy education as a promising practice in health and substance abuse prevention education. The medical and public health community now recognizes the media as a cultural environmental influence on health and sees media literacy education as a strategy to support the development of healthy behavior.

Interdisciplinary scholarship in media literacy education is emerging. In 2009, a scholarly journal was launched, the Journal of Media Literacy Education,[47] to support the work of scholars and practitioners in the field. Universities such as Appalachian State University, Columbia University, Ithaca College, New York University, Brooklyn College of the City University of New York, the University of Texas-Austin, The University of Rhode Island and the University of Maryland offer courses and summer institutes in media literacy for pre-service teachers and graduate students. Brigham Young University offers a graduate program in media education specifically for inservice teachers. The Salzburg Academy for Media and Global Change is another program that educates students and professionals from around the world the importance of being literate about the media.

Impacts of media literacy education on civic engagement[edit]

Media literacy education appears to have a positive impact on overall youth civic engagement.[48] Youth who attend schools that offer media literacy programs are more likely to politically engage online and are more likely to report encountering diverse viewpoints online.[49]

Youth interest[edit]

A nationally representative survey found that 84% of young people think they and their friends would benefit from training on verifying information found online.[44]

National Association for Media Literacy Education[edit]

More than 600 educators are members of the National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE), a national membership group that hosts a bi-annual conference. In 2007, this group developed an influential policy document, the Core Principles of Media Literacy Education in the United States.[50] It states, "The purpose of media literacy education is to help individuals of all ages develop the habits of inquiry and skills of expression that they need to be critical thinkers, effective communicators and active citizens in today’s world. Principles include: (1) Media Literacy Education requires active inquiry and critical thinking about the messages we receive and create; (2) Media Literacy Education expands the concept of literacy in all forms of media (i.e., reading and writing); (3) Media Literacy Education builds and reinforces skills for learners of all ages. Like print literacy, those skills necessitate integrated, interactive, and repeated practice; (4) Media Literacy Education develops informed, reflective and engaged participants essential for a democratic society; (5) Media Literacy Education recognizes that media are a part of culture and function as agents of socialization; and (6) Media Literacy Education affirms that people use their individual skills, beliefs and experiences to construct their own meanings from media messages.

See also[edit]


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  2. ^ The European Charter for Media Literacy. Retrieved on 2011-12-21.
  3. ^ See Corporate media and Public service broadcasting
  4. ^ Hobbs, Renee (2010). "Empowerment and protection: Complementary strategies for digital and media literacy in the United States". Formare: 1–17. 
  5. ^ e.g., Media Literacy Resource Guide.
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  16. ^ Sturken and Cartwright. The Practices of Looking. pp. Ch. 2: Viewers Make Meaning. 
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  22. ^ Webb, T.; Martin, K.; Afifi, A.A; Kraus, J. (2010). "Media Literacy as a Violence-Prevention Strategy: A Pilot Evaluation". Health Promotion Practice. 11 (5): 714–722. doi:10.1177/1524839908328998. 
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  25. ^ Chambers, K.L.; Alexander, S.M. (2007). "Media Literacy as an Educational Method for Addressing College Women's Body Image Issues". Education. 127 (4): 490–497. 
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  35. ^ at Retrieved on 2011-12-21.
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  41. ^ What's Really Best for Learning?
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  50. ^ Core Principles of MLE : National Association for Media Literacy Education. Retrieved on 2011-12-21.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

  • [2] - Advertising Standards Authority (United Kingdom)
  • [3] - Body Image; Media images of the "ideal" female body: Can acute exercise moderate their psychological impact?