Final report - Chapter I: Approaches - existing and possible - to media literacy
Date:  May-December 2007
Typology: policy initiative - framework-model - survey-report
Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB)

Barcelona (Spain)

UAB Information Service
Plaça Cívica
UAB Campus
08193 Bellaterra (BARCELONA)
Tel.: +34 93 581 11 11
Fax: +34 93 581 25 95

Contact persons:
Steering team: 
José Manuel Pérez Tornero
UAB. Departament de Periodisme i de Ciències de la Comunicació
Àrea de Periodisme
Edifici I
Campus de la UAB
08193 Bellaterra (Cerdanyola del Vallès)
Tel.: +34 93 581 4475
Fax: +34 93 581 2005
Paolo Celot
EAVI – Secretary General of the European Viewers Association
Round Point Schuman 9/16 1040 Bruxelles
Tel.: 00322/2820085
Fax 00322/2303006
Mirea Pi

Tapio Varis
Professor of Vocational Education, with particular reference to Global Learning Environments
University of Tampere. Faculty of Education
UNESCO Chair in global e-learning with applications
to multiple domains
Tampere University
Korkeakoulunkatu 6)
PL 229
13101 Hämeenlinna
Tel.: +358-3-2156111
Mobile: +358-50-5679833

Research team
Glòria Baena

UAB. Departament de Periodisme i de Ciències de la Comunicació
Àrea de Periodisme
Edifici I
Campus de la UAB
08193 Bellaterra (Cerdanyola del Vallès)
Tel.: +34 93 581 1545
Fax:+34 93 581 2005
Patricia Castillo
Laura Cervi
UAB. Departament de Periodisme i de Ciències de la Comunicació
Àrea de Periodisme
Edifici I
Campus de la UAB
08193 Bellaterra (Cerdanyola del Vallès)
Tel.: +34 93 581 4473
Fax: +34 93 581 2005
Enrique González
Anna-Liisa Kaataja
Heikki Maenpa
Oralia Paredes
Laura Rojas
Santiago Tejedor Calvo

UAB. Departament de Periodisme i de Ciències de la Comunicació
Àrea de Periodisme
Edifici I
Campus de la UAB
08193 Bellaterra (Cerdanyola del Vallès)
Tel.: +34 93 581 4475
Fax: +34 93 581 2005
Philippos Vardakas
17562 ATHENS

Panel of experts
Ignacio Aguaded Gómez
Grupo Comunicar and Universidad de Huelva
Cary Bazalgette
Head of Education Projects - British Film Institute
Evelyn Bevort
CLEMI - Directrice déléguée, relations internationales du Centre de Liaison de l'Enseignement et des Moyens d'Information
Victoria Camps
Helen Doherty
IADT Dublin
Susanne Krucsay
Federal Ministry for Education, Science and Culture - Head of department 'Media Pedagogy'
Manuel Pinto
Pier Cesare Rivoltella

Final report
Chapter I - Approaches - existing and possibile - to media literacy

"The key to ICT Access and the new communication environment is media literacy. Promoting it among European citizens has become a strategic and integrationist objective for the whole of Europe.
A fundamental requirement for the promotion of this new capacity is to have a suitable model for media literacy, and to know all its dimensions, its strategic value and the specific benefits that it can bring to the development of information society in Europe.
The question facing the European Commission, therefore, is what can be offered at Commission level that will add value and encouragement to National efforts, diverse as these are.
Using this model, we will describe the existing and possible approaches to media literacy and their implications for a policy of promotion and support. 
Our final objective is an operational working framework."
(p. 2)

Dinamic history of literacy
The concept of literacy was traditionally linked to an alphabet or a language code, that is, through reading, writing and understanding and linked with print media. However, today, the term literacy has been extended to cover the skills and competencies involved in finding, selecting, analysing, evaluating and storing information, in its treatment and its use, independently of the codes or techniques involved.
From an historical point of view each stage of the development of communications -  in terms of codes, techniques and mediums - correspond to a specific development of the communicative and cultural competences and in consequence a different literacy model.
Seen in a different way, they have always initiated new power struggles over access to the means of creating and disseminating information.
The model that is related to the new communicative environment is known as media literacy.
In this section, ... the most important milestones in the development of literacy throughout the course of history, in order to give a precise definition of the
scope and limits of media literacy
" (p. 3)
"Media literacy...  is a part of the important process of humanity’s communicative development, which started with the introduction of the classical written alphabet, and which has extended to the development of electronic media and digitalised information.

The table below highlights the most important phases of this evolution.

Historical era

Communicative environment

New skills 

Socio-cultural outcomes

Classical era

Oral and gestural communication

+1 Development of
alphabetical writing

Command of oral and gestural language

+ Alphabetical skills

+ Systematization and conservation of knowledge

+ Origin of philosophy and
scientific exploration

Renaissance  and first industrial revolution

+ Develop of printing, of books and the press

+ Amplification and expansion of literacy

+ Advances in empirical philological sciences

Second industrial revolution 

+ Appearance of electronic media: telephone, film, radio and television

+ Audiovisual literacy

+ Media and consumer societies

Information society

+ Digital media and Internet 

+ Digital literacy

+ Media literacy
(in a climate of media convergence) 

+ Globalisation of information

+ Explosion of knowledge

+ Knowledge society

 1 The sign + indicates an innovation introduced during the corresponding period." (p. 4)

"To understand fully the nature of this new media literacy, one should bear in mind the historical milestones in the literacy process:

  • Classic literacy (reading-writing-understanding) was dominant for centuries and corresponded to the process of reading and writing, and in which primary schooling has played an essential role.

  • Audiovisual literacy, which relates to electronic media such as film and television, focuses on image, and sequential images. It is the beginning of different educational initiatives early engaged but not sufficiently supported by a real policy.

  • Digital literacy or information literacy stems from computer and digital media, which brought about the necessity to learn new skills. This is a very recent concept, and is often used synonymously to refer to the technical skills required for modern digital tools.

  • Media literacy, which is needed as a result of the media convergence – that is the merging of electronic media (mass communication) and digital media (multimedia communication) which occurs in the advanced stages of development of information society. This media literacy includes the command of previous forms of literacy: reading and writing (from understanding to creative skills), audiovisual, digital and the new skills required in a climate of media convergence.

The need to tackle the new media literacy has been recognised by numerous experts and researchers and has been described with clarity by Sonia  Livingstone: “Because, as media and information technologies converge and pose new problems and challenges for citizens in their everyday understanding of those technologies, two particular traditions are converging. One, broadly, we could call media literacy, the other comes from information literacy, and people here may be more or less familiar with those different traditions. But of course, as technologies converge, skills converge as well, and so we need a convergent notion of literacy". (p. 8)

The conceptualisation of media literacy
"According to the European Charter of Media Literacy, there are seven areas of competences (or uses) related to media literacy:

  • Use media technologies effectively to access, store, retrieve and share content to meet their individual and community needs and interests;

  • Gain access to, and make informed choices about, a wide range of media forms and content from different cultural and institutional sources;

  • Understand how and why media content is produced;

  • Analyse critically the techniques, languages and conventions used by the media, and the messages they convey;

  • Use media creatively to express and communicate ideas, information and opinions;

  • Identify, and avoid or challenge, media content and services that may be unsolicited, offensive or harmful;

  • Make effective use of media in the exercise of their democratic rights and civil responsibilities." (p. 12)

"On the other hand, the skills related to media literacy can be summarised in four areas of ability: access, analysis, evaluation and creative production. All of these skills boost aspects of personal development: consciousness, critical thinking and problem-solving abilities.
Media literacy should not be treated as an isolated or independent skill. On the contrary, it is a skill that involves and encompasses other skills and forms of literacy:
reading and writing literacy, audiovisual literacy (often referred to as image or visual literacy) and digital or information literacy.
Furthermore, media literacy is a necessary part of
active citizenship and is key to the full development of freedom of expression and the right to information. It is therefore an essential part of participative democracy and intercultural dialogue. "Today, media literacy is as central to active and full citizenship as  literacy was at the beginning of 19th century," DG INFSO Commissioner Viviane Reding (Press release IP/06/1326, Brussels, 6 October 2006)." (p. 13-15)

Areas of media literacy
"For a complete definition of an operative model of media literacy, it is important to consider the areas of competences into which the necessary skills are divided.
Using the European Commission’s definition, the following areas can be identified:

  • Access: This refers to the opportunities for using media. We will make a distinction between a) physical access to the media and to the contents of the media; and b) the ability – both cognitive and practical – to use these media properly. To include both of these aspects, we will talk about conditions of access...

  • Analysis and evaluation: This refers to a) the ability to read , understand and evaluate media content and, b) the capacity for comprehension and awareness of the conditions and possibilities of the media as tools.

There are several sub-areas to reading, comprehension and evaluation: 1) the ability of the individual to explore, locate and select information to suit their individual needs; 2) the individual ability to evaluate the information used according to parameters such as truthfulness, honesty, interests of the broadcaster, etc.
The area of analysis and evaluation refers to the most sophisticated abilities and
skills such as critical thinking and personal autonomy.

  • Communicative competence: The skills that allow individuals to create messages, from different codes – and to produce and distribute them using the different media available. It therefore includes creative skills, technical skills, semiotic skills, and social skills." (p. 18-19)

Increasing presence of media literacy in the compulsory education curriculum
European educational reforms have tended to include the introduction of new ways of dealing with media education and media literacy in the curriculum. Attention to the mass media and ICT is present in the new curriculums that have been introduced following reforms of recent years.
Initially, media education in the curriculum was focused on mass media (press, radio, film and television). With the development of ICT, interest was redirected from mass media to digital media.
More recently, a balance has been established between mass media and digital media and there has been more educational interest in the new digital environment which includes new and old media. 
This is a rising phenomenon in Europe.
There is no doubt that the inclusion of the media in the curriculum has risen with the educational reforms of the 1990s and 2000s...
Many countries have included the acquisition of media and digital skills as among the final objectives of their curriculum (Finland, Slovenia, France, Spain); and some have linked these skills to civic education and active citizenship (France, Spain).
Some have created optional subjects (Some in Spain and France) on the media. Others have established evaluation systems for such skills (France).
In general, there is a clear trend for linking skills related to new digital media with critical and creative skills related to mass media (film, radio, television and press).
Socio-political and market demands are quickly encouraging computer literacy, but becoming computer literate does not complete media literacy. The former belongs to the paradigm of technological needs, in the sense that computer technologies require users to have certain technical competencies. The latter one lies in the knowledge paradigm, improving civic and human consciousness.
Reducing media education to mere computer literacy would be technocratic reductionism, while including computer literacy within the media education paradigm would lead to a broadest and most meaningful realm of learning. In other words, it would involve including technological knowledge in the broadest realm of acquiring consciousness and meaning.
At any rate, media education must now take advantage of the enormous potential for change in perspective that obligatory computer literacy is imposing as the ideal means to acquire an appropriate critical consciousness. Critical thinking can be more easily developed when the established rules are beginning to be questioned and ways of doing things are subject to brusque changes...
In this context, media literacy is starting to take note of the evolution related to the appearance of the so-called WEB 2.0.
The paradigm of WEB 2.0 is not one of criticism of mass communication, nor of resignation to the technological determinism of the first digital literacy. The underlying political proposal of WEB 2.0 and the one which corresponds to the recent technological environment is of media appropriation by individuals and groups and of participation in collective or social media production. In fact all of the WEB 2.0’s significant tools promote net collaboration and productive activity.
These aspects of the recent technological evolution are directly connected with creativity and production supported by media literacy and media education.
However, and despite everything – probably due to the inertia of previous situations – the trend in Europe is to separate skills related to media education and to digital skills. In the former with a more critical emphasis, the latter with a more instrumental emphasis.
There are few curriculums – either formal or of lifelong learning – that propose a convergence between media education and digital literacy. If, despite everything, the convergence is taking place, it is more down to technological changes and the integration of all media in a new communicational environment, than to a theoretical discussion or a disciplinary change.
But everything seems to suggest that the most likely evolution is a convergence of models, which would allow for a combination of active participation in media production, with critical thinking, that is, the conjunction of the values of traditional media education (centred on mass media) and the current direction of media literacy (centred on production in the new digital environment) of the WEB 2.0."
(p. 48-49)


Keywords: literacies - ICT access - media literacy - media literacy  in Europe - media literacy skills - information society - knowledge society - classic literacy - digital literacy - audiovisual literacy - reading skills - writing skills - understanding skill - reading literacy - writing skills - information literacy - information handling - information processing - information skills -  information competences - critical use of information - media convergence - critical thinking - problem solving - critical thinking skills - problem solving skills - communication skills - communicative competence -  communicative environment - media education - integration into curriculum - Web 2.0 - Web 2.0 paradigm - active citizenship - personal autonomy - participative democracy - citizenship skills - critical use of media - citizenship skills - digital skills - new skills - European approaches to media literacy - critical skills - creative skills

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