What does media literacy mean for young democracies?

Alexandra Bujokas de Siqueira

In Brazil, media literacy is taken as a core resource to strengthen our relatively young democracy, which is definitely not something trivial.

If one has a look at the relationship between media and politics in Brazil some very particular things will stand out: in our country, politicians surprisingly have their own TV and radio stations; our broadcast law has remained the same since 1964 (when TV was black & white and the political system was a dictatorship); there is absolutely no regulation on ownership and media concentration. Since 1988 politicians connected to labour movements have been trying to review the communications regulatory framework, but more conservative party members intend to keep the power over the media.

On the other hand, many NGOs have been engaged in projects related to media access since 1985, when the new constitutional law was written and approved. We have, for instance, the National Forum on Media Democratization, the Community Radio Movement, the  “Intervozes” (Inter Voices) Project, the National Network of Media Observatories. All of those groups work in several initiatives such as organizing and publishing data about media concentration, licensing processes, monitoring parliamentary actions and monitoring media content.

Amongst those groups there is the general public as a whole, who have the right to freedom of expression (which “includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers”, according to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights), but they are not aware of the rights taken away from them.

Hence, in our country, media literacy is being called upon to bridge the gap between politics and public demands on communications.

Personally, I believe that schools have a central role in this field, and my personal beliefs make me work hard to insert media education within the curriculum at the Federal University of Triângulo Mineiro, where I am a lecturer.

Media institutions, language and representation are particularly relevant subjects for us, because of the problems with concentration of power, whose side effect is the lack of diversity, plurality, and balance on media content. We have several studies on those side effects, but we have few teaching materials which adapt that data to educational spaces.

Perhaps we can explain our lack of experience with media education because, during the 60s and 70s (an important period for the development of the media education on an international level), we lived under a dictatorship which controlled freedom of expression, and, consequently, media content, the schools curriculum and its teaching materials. Now we have to develop our expertise in a short space of time.

Our advantage is that we can learn from other countries’ experiences and share our findings with international partners. Our very particular case could be useful to test the universal importance of the potential of media literacy to develop critical thinking and civic engagement.


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  1. Fábio César da Fonseca says:

    I think Alexandra’s work about media education in Federal University of Triângulo Mineiro is very important. It has a determinant politic function to the constrution of a democracy in which the means of the communications and its new technologies must be lived of a collective way. In Brazil, our history of education and communications shows us how much they have been used by dominant social classes to maintain privileges and the economic power.
    In my opinion, the University has a crucial role on the strengthening of the brazilian democracy, mainly with the participation of the youth and involvement of the elementary e secundary schools. Not only. The University must insert in the popular communities because of their social and economic problems, which relate with the politic desmobilization. Surely, people in general must be involved in this fight. It’s a hard work, but necessary.
    We support the Alexandra’s work in Federal University of Triângulo Mineiro to insert media education within the curriculum. In this sense, the University, above all, must offer to their professors and students structure and laboratories consistent with a efficient work for a media education. And the government must have eyes open to the needs of the universities.

    Fábio César da Fonseca
    Professor – Federal University of Triângulo Mineiro

  2. Alan Taylor says:

    A very inspiring and insightful overview that helps frame current and similar challenges here in South Africa.

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