A media literacy concept note for Flanders

On May 4th 2012, the Flemish Government principally approved the media literacy concept note, which is a joint proposal from minister of media Ingrid Lieten and minister of education Pascal Smet. Media literacy is a theme which is situated at the intersection of different policy fields including Media and Education. Both policy fields are already active in the field of media literacy and want to give a powerful impulse to the further expansion of a coordinated and integrated policy, and to the developments within the field.

In the coalition agreement 2009-2014 ‘A decisive Flanders in decisive times’, the media literacy theme is extensively being addressed. The theme is also strongly present on a European level. For instance the Digital Agenda for Europe – one of the initiatives of the Europe2020 strategy – is paying it attention. Further, there is the European framework for key competences for lifelong learning, where digital literacy and media literacy play an important role.

View, scope and definition

To the Flemish government, media literacy is the entirety of knowledge, skills and attitudes with which citizens can move consciously and critically in a complex, changing and mediated world. It is the ability towards an active and creative use of media aimed at societal participation.

It is important to stress that, when it comes to media literacy, it is not only about practical capabilities such as ICT-skills, reading proficiency and smooth/creative use of different media, but also about practical media consciousness, insight in the mechanisms of commercial communication and the media industry, critical information and strategical skills, and responsible and safe media use.

Another important element is that media literacy involves all (new and traditional) media. This implies for instance that media literacy evolves when new media are being developed. This means that media literacy is not a competence that can be acquired on a single occurrence, but is a part of lifelong learning.

Crucial is that the approach being used does not start from fear and from forbidding, but from an emancipating view where you use media to express yourself. Strived for a balance between ‘emancipate’ and ‘protect’. Multi-stakeholder-governance is also an important pillar of the policy. An effective policy with regard to media literacy assumes a fruitful interaction between the different involved actors, between provider and user, between sector and government.

Most important goals

Through the media literacy concept note, there will be worked on four important goals:

The creation of a sustainable and strategical framework for media literacy. A sustainable view- and policy framework supports the actions and initiatives with regard to media literacy. In this concept note, the chalk lines are drawn. This framework can be applied in agreement with the needs, new insights and technological advancements.

The stimulation and enhancement of competences. The interaction with the diverse media on a critical and efficient, but also on a responsible and safe way, requires knowledge, skills and attitude competences. The stimulation and enhancement of competences is one of the key goals of a media literacy policy. In this context, the actions, formulated in the framework for knowledge acquisition, research and monitoring, of course contribute to an increasing insight with the government, the sector and the public.

The removal of the digital divide. The digital divide or the dividing line in society between those that have access and the skills to deal with ICT, and those that do not have this access and skills, needs to be fought. There has to be made a contribution to a more inclusive society where the access to media is being guaranteed and where everyone has the necessary media literacy competences.

The creation of a safe and responsible media environment. The use of, especially, new media does not only imply opportunities but also risks. A possible approach exists in for instance improving (self)regulating initiatives. Certainly, emphasis must lay on sensitization, and several e-safety initiatives need to be done. During the duration of the concept note, each year a sensitization campaign will occur on a specific topic. Within Education, there is work being done on an integrated e-safety system through the European e-safety Label program.

To achieve these goals, the concept note contains an action plan with forty concrete actions. You can find a complete summary in the concept note.