Budget media literacy like innovation!

….and with these powerful words, Andy Demeulenaere from Mediawijs, Belgium brought to an end the most recent gathering of the European Commission’s Media Literacy Expert Group (MLEG) held in Brussels on 11 December. It was an interesting day that involved delegates from European Union member states along with experts, researchers and project leaders organised by the media literacy unit within DG Connect of the European Commission. The agenda was a mix of updates from the European Commission about relevant developments, project reports and news from MLEG members.

Paolo Cesarini from the EC kicked off proceedings reminding us all that we were something of an atypical group, given the mix of delegates and representatives from different constituencies, including media literacy activists and NGOs, publishers and platforms, project leaders and researchers. Paolo pointed to two current Europe-wide initiatives that have a direct bearing on the well-being of the media literacy community, the Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMSD) and the Action Plan against Disinformation

AVMSD is currently coming into operation and strengthens the role of media literacy by requiring member states to promote and take measures for the development of media literacy skills. The EC is launching a platform to monitor actions amongst the member states which will be a really useful tool to encourage compliance and highlight successes. A code of practice as part of the action plan against disinformation has also been launched which is another useful tool in the fight against hate speech. This action plan is taking a proactive stance by creating a European Digital Media Observatory which will serve as a hub for fact-checkers, academics and researchers to collaborate with each other and actively link with media organisations and media literacy experts, and provide support to policy makers.

Vjera Matković and Robert Tomljenović gave a presentation on their plans for a 3 day conference in Zagreb, Croatia starting on 30 March which is the main European gathering during the 2020 Media Literacy week. Last year saw the launch of the first European Media Literacy week and hopes are high in EC circles, that the 2020 week will have a lot more impact. The conference in Zagreb is a flagship event which highlights the Croatian Presidency’s priority of Media Literacy in an Ever-Changing World. So far key note presentations are confirmed from Renee Hobbs, Martina Chapman and Davina Frau-Meigs, watch out for more news about the programme in January.

Then we heard about the results of the most recent round of funding from the European Commission. A total of 15 eligible proposals were received, results are expected in January 2020 with the likelihood of there being 2 proposals selected for funding. The round of news from MLEG members that followed was a mix of announcements, comments and requests for collaboration. Here are a few that are worth noting, Ofcom has launched its media literacy network, the EPRA (European Platform of Regulatory Authorities) Taskforce on Media Literacy has launched a set of practical guidelines on planning media literacy campaigns and there is a new Nordic initiative to establish a collective set of MIL indicators.

Then we had a presentation by Martina Chapman about the recent Council of Europe study entitled ‘Supporting Quality Journalism through Media and Information Literacy’. The purpose of this study is to provide context and evidence on media and information literacy activities in Europe that can support quality journalism. Martina and her colleagues examined projects from 32 countries including 14 trans-national projects and the final report which includes a set of recommendations will be published in January. We are asking Martina for an article about the outcomes of this study, so check out the newsletter in January for more information.

The afternoon sessions were all about different studies, projects and initiatives. The first of these was given by Francisco Lupiáñez-Villanueva of Open Evidence on the ‘Study on media literacy and online empowerment issues raised by algorithm-driven media services‘. To be honest, I wasn’t looking forward to this as discussions about algorithms often leave me far behind. But this was fascinating in its description of how social media platforms use algorithms to shape the news that people read, as well as people’s behaviour online, which all play a role in the rapid spread of disinformation. Again, we hope to include an article from Francisco in early 2020 on this study.

Two presentations on the topic of empowering communities through Media Literacy followed. The first was from Viola Pinzi, of European Schoolnet on their project ‘Social Media Literacy for Change‘ which aims to support European school leaders and teachers, particularly those working with young people at risk of being socially marginalised, to foster social media literacy (SML) in both their school and local community. The second was given by Nadia Bellardi of CMFE on the background paper she and her colleagues have written on ‘Media Literacy for all. Supporting marginalised groups through community media‘ for the Council of Europe. Much of Nadia’s presentation focused on community radio, a cost-effective tool that can give communities a real voice.

Next came a presentation from Anais Adriaens-Allemand from CLEMI in France entitled ‘Famille Tout Ecran’ which provided lots of background and insights into CLEMI’s well established practices of bringing journalists into schools along with other far-ranging actions. This was followed by a presentation by Giovanni Melogli of the Alliance Internationale de Journalistes, CMPF (Centre for Media Pluralism and Media Freedom) in which he urged the audience to help spread the message about successful MIL initiatives in member states.

However for me, the highlight of the day came at the end with a terrific presentation by Andy Demeulenaere on just some of the many initiatives organised by Mediawijs in the Flemish region of Belgium. These are mainstream, well considered and effective campaigns and initiatives involving parents, teachers and students. They demonstrate what can be achieved when a comprehensive and inclusive strategy is combined with adequate resources and a skilled team with sound leadership. Andy also managed to provide useful advice to the European media literacy community with several clear messages; work together and join forces; keep it open and complete; avoid time-wasting polemics and remember that effective media literacy is more than individual responsibility and must involve authorities, policy makers and industry. He left us with the simple, but very powerful, thought – why can’t we fund media literacy in Europe in the same way as we fund innovation, just imagine what kind of an impact that would have.

Sally Reynolds

Media & Learning Association