Disputed task and doubtful force? A review of the Media Literacy Taskforce and the industry’s response to New Labour’s media literacy policy.

This source preferred by Richard Wallis

Authors: Wallis, R.

Start date: 8 January 2014

When the Communications Act 2003 required the new regulator, Ofcom, to ‘promote media literacy’, the policy initiative was widely welcomed, particularly by those with an interest in media education. It seemed to provide both an endorsement and an opportunity. According to Culture Secretary, Tessa Jowell, media literacy was ‘a coming subject’ and one that ‘in five years time will be just another given’. Driven by their own interests, as well as a prevailing concern that it should not be left to Ofcom alone, the UK Film Council (UKFC) in collaboration with the BFI, the BBC, and Channel 4, created what it called a Media Literacy Taskforce. Its aim was to have a ‘joined-up agenda linking Government objectives and initiatives from the DCMS, DfES and the Home Office with industry partners and educationalists…’ The Taskforce set about developing a Charter, initiating projects, and undertaking policy advocacy. This paper describes these activities, and the challenges faced by the Taskforce, from its inception in 2004 to its demise in 2009. It examines the extent to which it was able to link different government departmental priorities in the way that had been hoped, and explores a range of oppositions and tensions that emerged during the course of its work. The paper concludes that there were systemic fault lines beyond the scope of the Taskforce, and many of its difficulties were prefigured at the point of the invention of media literacy as a New Labour policy objective.

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