The Media Policy Guidelines for 2016–2020 and their Implementation Plan (adopted on 8 November 2016) are the first policy planning documents in Latvia that foresee activities for the development of media literacy. The Ministry of Culture is responsible for improving media literacy in society as a whole, whereas media literacy in school curricula is within the purview of the Ministry of Education and Science and the National Centre for Education.
The Ministry of Culture media literacy development policy has 6 strands.
- Support for media literacy projects in the media
Media financial support programmes were launched in 2017. They allocate funding for the creation of socially significant content to help ensure economic viability and maintain the diversity of the media landscape. Funding is made available through open project competition in the categories of investigative journalism, deconstruction of lies, development of media literacy, media criticism, support for regional media etc. In 2018, 20 projects promoting media literacy submitted by various media (TV, radio, printed press, Internet) were supported. Deconstruction of lies and the development of media literacy by the media themselves are of particular importance. A 2017 Ministry of Culture study showed that 85% of Latvia’s population that want to know more about media literacy expect information from the media (instead of from attending seminars, libraries etc.).
- Research and analysis
In 2017, the Ministry of Culture carried out surveys on the media literacy of the inhabitants of Latvia (1082 respondents) and the media literacy of children and adolescents (9-16 years old, 1203 respondents). Summaries in English are available here.
- Work with media literacy mentors and development of learning tools/materials
Mentors include teachers, librarians, local government youth specialists. The most recent learning tool (Autumn 2018) was “Superheroes on the Internet!”, a social campaign for media literacy and Internet safety for 5-8 year olds’ that was launched in cooperation with the State Police, Net-Safe Latvia and the private sector (more information in Latvian). The campaign uses 5 animated videos with rhymes to inform about the risks and opportunities in the Internet environment. The rhymes, which are easy to learn by heart, contain the answers to five questions that should be discussed with children before their first independent steps in the digital world: What you should not tell a stranger on the Internet? When to call an adult you trust for help? What can be deceptive on the Internet? How to behave on the Internet? How can the Internet help?
Giving the right answers children can earn superpowers, get a diploma, a worksheet for colouring and a Superhero mask. Teachers and other interested parties have free access to the methodological recommendations on how to include these videos in lessons. We sent e-mails to 1450 schools and kindergartens in Latvia, as well as to 110 weekend schools of the Latvian diaspora with a kind invitation to use these materials in the classroom.
4. Support for media literacy activities for schoolchildren
Three national pupils’ debate competitions have been held. The Popper style debates focussed on media literacy issues, for example, whether information on social media raises knowledge about political processes or whether the state should regulate the media space on the Internet?
5. Activities to wider society
The latest one is a communication campaign “Media are not comedia” against the dissemination of disinformation (launched by State Chancellery in cooperation with Ministry of Culture and Ministry of Interior). The campaign is targeted mainly at youngsters and seniors who,according to research, tend to be less critical towards information published in the media, including social media. The campaign’s symbol is a horn, a call to think critically before sharing disinformation and to write to others if they share entirely fictional,although alarming content for example, a fictional story about the collapse of a supermarket roof. In the summer of 2018 posters warning about poisonous spiders appeared at public transport stops. It soon became clear that it was an art performance. However, part of society may be alarmed after reading this disinformation and block the lines of emergency services. The campaign calls for critical thinking before panicking. More information (in Latvian).
6. Capacity building of the media literacy development system
The ministry organises annual meetings and study visits (with the help of international partners), coordinates stakeholders and other activities.
Despite all the work done, media literacy still needs to be included in curricula. New educational standards are currently being developed by the Ministry of Education and Science (project “School 2030”). We are in active communication with the project developers and promoting the idea that media literacy is one of the most important skills of today’s citizens.
Dr.sc.comm. Klinta Ločmele
Media Policy Division Expert
Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Latvia