Media literacy - yesterday's 'really important idea'.

This source preferred by Richard Wallis

Authors: Wallis, R.

Start date: 19 September 2013

Although the notion that people should be educated about media has a long history, rarely has it received much sympathetic attention by UK governments. Yet in the early years of New Labour, the concept of media literacy emerged from obscurity, was adopted by policy-makers, and within six years had become enshrined in law. Media literacy, according to Estelle Morris, the Education Secretary of the time, was ‘a really really important idea’.

However, by the end of the New Labour era (well before the reactionary curriculum reforms of the Coalition government that followed), it was clear that media literacy had not been prioritised in the way that might have been expected. Moreover, a lack of clarity about its meaning, and its breadth of application, seemed to have rendered it no longer politically useful. There were also structural reasons why it was never embraced with any degree of alacrity. The focus of this paper, is to present some of the ways in which the notion of media literacy was positioned in education policy thinking under New Labour; whereabouts in the curriculum it may have been found; and ultimately why it failed to flourish.

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