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: