What is Media Literacy?

Why Media Literacy?

The media—print, broadcast, motion pictures, the Internet—have never been as pervasive as in the present era, nor, as a consequence, as influential. Media literacy has become as essential in the modern world as literacy and numeracy.

Media literacy, declares the National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE), “represents a necessary, inevitable, and realistic response (underscoring ours) to the complex, ever-changing” electronic and communication environment that has become part of the lives of millions all over the planet.

Responsible citizenship requires citizens in a democracy not only to access but also to understand and to be critical of the billions of words, bytes and images—the totality of information—that the media disseminate daily through print, broadcast, moving pictures, and the Internet. The interactivity made possible by the new electronic media has made this an even more crucial imperative not only for responsible citizenship and responsible communication, but also for the development of every human being in society.

“Today’s information and entertainment technologies,” continues NAMLE, “communicate to us through a powerful combination of words, images, and sounds. As such, we need to develop a wider set of literacy skills helping us to both comprehend the messages we receive and effectively utilize these tools to design and distribute our own messages.”

Being media literate thus “requires critical thinking skills that empower us as we make decisions, whether in the classroom, the living room, the workplace, the boardroom, or the voting booth.”

However, media literacy enables the individual not only to be critical of the media but also to create messages appropriate to each medium. In the Philippine context, media literacy is also a long-term solution to the many problems and issues that afflict the Philippine media, in that a media literate public aware of the role, values and standards of the media can demand that the media adhere to their own standards as a necessary condition to improving their capacity to provide the public the information it needs.

These standards the media themselves disseminate through codes of ethics and professional guidelines with which media organizations encourage compliance. These standards are meant to assure that media practitioners—who today include ordinary citizens who access the Internet and its various platforms of expression to make their views known on various matters including issues and events of public concern—are able to provide accurate, relevant, and fair reports, analysis and opinion to the billions of individuals who read newspapers, listen to the radio, view television and motion pictures, and access the Internet.

Further Readings:

NEXT: Know Your Freedom

Produced by the Center for Media Freedom & Responsibility
Supported by a grant from the Open Society Foundations

This module is free and open for anyone to access. Materials from this module can be used as long as proper credit is given.


What is Media Literacy?

Know Your Freedom

Journalism 101

Case Studies