The concept of media literacy has undergone significant transformation in recent years from its origins in media education discourse to the current pivotal role it occupies in emerging European media policy formations. Its insertion within the Audiovisual Services Directive is an indicator of the significance attached to it at European Commission level. Media literacy, in addition to denoting critical media awareness, is increasingly viewed as essential to maintaining inclusivity in a rapidly changing environment for converged information and communication services. But what, in this context, does media literacy now mean and does it fit appropriately within the ‘moral agenda’ (Silverstone 2004) of current regulatory discourse?
These questions are framed against the background of proposed legislation for public media literacy promotion in Ireland. Internationally, Ofcom has provided the principal model for a public regulatory approach. This paper assesses this and other models and considers implications for the Irish situation in which the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) will be charged with a similar responsibility. In anticipation of this new policy, this paper will examine three main areas:
• The international state of the art with regard to public regulatory commitments to media literacy;
• Current trends in media literacy thinking as articulated by key stakeholders in the field;
• Public attitudes towards media literacy in Ireland as revealed in focus groups.
Drawing on research commissioned by the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland, findings are intended to inform decision-making within a regulatory perspective and make recommendations for effective and socially responsive communications policy.