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Media Literacy


Media literacy does not mean being anti-media. "What media literacy attempts to do is help (students) demystify the media, so that they can understand how it is constructed, why it is constructed, and for whom it is constructed." (Barry Duncan, Association for Media Literacy-Ontario).

Why is it important?

In the past few decades, there have been over 3,000 studies on the effects of media violence on children and youth. And although opinions are many and divergent, the majority view today is that media violence does influence impressionable young viewers. It is also important to educate young people about unhealthy and sexist images in our media. A 1991 Health Canada report determined that only about 27% of Canadians are actually overweight, yet 70% of all Canadian women wanted to reduce their weight. Only 1% of the population had the body type of today's fashion model. Young people are strongly influenced by TV and media images, and need to learn how to interpret these images.


1978: Formation of the Association for Media Literacy (AML), by teacher and author, Barry Duncan, together with a handful of colleagues and members of the National Film Board of Canada. Today, the AMLhas over 1,000 members throughout Canada and the world.

1979: Concern about sexism in the media led the CRTC to establish the Task Force on Sex Role Stereotyping (1979). Feminist task force members, namely Maria Eriksen, Beth Percival, Sylvia Spring, Lynn MacDonald, and Camille Bachand were convinced that change would come neither quickly, nor easily. Decided to create MediaWatch.

1982: Founding of MediaWatch (1982) to monitor issues on sex-role stereotyping in the media.

1984: Founding of the Jesuit Communication Project to promote media literacy. Executive Director, John Pungente S.J., a Canadian Jesuit priest and teacher who has written several books on media literacy, including Second Spring: Media Education in Canada's Secondary Schools (1993)

1992: Creation of the Canadian Association of Media Literacy Organizations (CAMEO) to promote media literacy across the country. CAMEO includes the following members:

- Canadian Association for Media Education (British Columbia)

- Alberta Association for Media Awareness (e-mail Sharon McCann:

- Media Literacy Saskatchewan

- Manitoba Association for Media Literacy (e-mail: Brian Murphy:

- Association for Media Literacy (Ontario):

- Jesuit Communication Project (

- Quebec Association for Media Education (e-mail Lee Rother: )

- Association for Media Literacy - Nova Scotia

1993:Roundtable on children and television violence sponsored by the CRTC. Representatives of parent and education organizations asked the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) to set up a clearinghouse on media education and media violence. The NFB agreed.

1996: Launch of Media Awareness Network on the World Wide Web and Incorporation of the Media Awareness Network.


1. Media Awareness Network (Canada): This is a bilingual site:

The Media Awareness Network is the first, and only on-line Canadian content clearinghouse dedicated to media literacy and to increasing pubic appreciation of the role media play in the lives of children.

Includes links for educators, prents, students, community leaders, as well as information on the industry itself. Leading media educators across Canada have participated in the design of the Network's In the Classroom section for teachers. The Media Awareness Network offers practical support for media education in the home, school and community and provides Canadians and others with information on our fast-evolving media culture. Includes separate discussion groups for teachers, secondary students and younger children.

Address: 1500 Merivale Road, 3rd Floor,Nepean, ON, K2E 6Z5

Telephone: (613) 224-7721 or 1-800-896-3342

Fax: (613) 224-1958


2. Mediawatch (Canada): This is a bilingual site:

MediaWatch is a national, volunteer feminist organization working to eliminate sexism in the media. Definition of "media" includes television, magazines, video games, rental movies, advertising, internet and more. Mediawatch wants our media to depict women positively, depict diversity and depict women as experts. These changes are fundamental to altering the current social climate in which gender inequality and violence against women are pervasive. Mediawatch promotes change by educating media industries, government and the public, conducting research, and encouraging consumer advocacy.

Mediawatch publishes a bi-monthly newsletter called Action Bulletin, with on-line archives: The most recent issue (December, 1997) is about the Howard Stern show.

The site also contains links to many resources, both print and audio-visual. Lists many excellent training manuals. Includes information on how to order Project Positive Action which consists of

three kits:

- Parent Kit for use in the home or child-care settings, 31 pp; - Teacher Kit for use in the classroom, 38 pp

- Administrator Kit for principal and supervisory officers, 52 pp

These kits offer a pro-active approach to counter sexism and violence in broadcast TV, videos, & video games and are designed to be used with children aged 4 to 12. $7.50/ea. or 3 for $20, plus postage ($1.50/ea. $4 for 3)

The link to media literacy for this site is currently under construction, but will include links for parents, students and educators.

The mailing address for MediaWatch is:

Suite 204 - 517 Wellington Street West,Toronto, ON, M5V 1G1

Telephone:(416) 408-2065; Fax: (416) 408-2069 ;

E-mail -

3. The Jesuit Communication Project:


The Jesuit Communication Project (JCP) was set up by John Pungente, S.J., in 1984 to promote media literacy in Canada. It also serves as a Canadian resource center for media literacy, with a collection of over

4000 books and periodicals on the media, as well as vertical files on media literacy and a large collection of international materials. It is used by teachers, researchers, students, and the media from across Canada and around the world. Twice a year, the JCP publishes Clipboard - the only international media literacy newsletter - and distributes it to 41 countries.

4. Association for Media Literacy (Ontario): (

The Association for Media Literacy (AML) is made up of teachers, librarians, consultants, parents, cultural workers, and media professionals concerned about the impact of the mass media in the creation of contemporary culture. Founded in 1978, the AML currently has over a thousand members from across Canada, throughout the United States, and from around the world. Our international membership is particularly strong in those English-speaking countries where the educational system has given some priority to media literacy, notably England, Australia and Scotland as well as the U.S. Our members and guest speakers at AML events include internationally known media educators such as John Pungente,SJ, of Canada,Len Masterman of Great Britain and Robyn Quin and Barrie McMahon of Australia.

Address: The Association for Media Literacy, 40 McArthur Street Weston,Ontario Canada M9P 3M7

Telephone: (416) 394-6992; Fax: (416) 394-6991;


5.Alliance for Children and Television (ACT):

(ACT) is a non-profit Canadian organization which promotes the interests of children with respect to television, video and other new media. For twenty years, the Alliance (formerly the Children's Broadcast Institute) has been a leading advocate for: more and better quality programming for young viewers, increased public awareness of the influence of television on children, and assistance to parents and caregivers to help children make the most of their television experience. ACT has produced several resources for parents including the Primetime Parent workshop kit, "Who's Minding the Set", and a brochure on "How does TV Affect Children's Health?", produced in 1994, in cooperation with the Ontario Medical Association:

6. Adbusters:

Based in Vancouver, Adbusters is a funny and irreverant organization which publishes a magazine four times/year in a language and style which appeals to youth culture. Includes sections on "Media Carta" , with announcements about "Turn off the TV Week", April 24-30; "Corporate Nation" (monitoring the power of corporations), and Pop Goes Your Culture", preparing for the 1998 "Buy Nothing Day": November 27. dbusters is funded by The Media Foundation, a "Media Activist Organization". In their own words, Adbusters magazine is "dedicated to reinventing the outdated paradigms of our consumer culture and building a brave new understanding of living. Our language is culture jamming: the activism of the '90s. More than anything, we seek compelling ideas that further the critical perspective and offer -- at the same time -- activist solutions."

Address: 1243 West 7th Avenue,Vancouver,B.C. V6H 1B7; E-mail:

Telephone: (604) 736-9401 ;

Toll-free Phone (USA & Canada only):1-800-663-1243;

Fax: (604)737-6021

7. Regional Activities: Media Aware of Barrie:

The Barrie site for Best Start: Community Action for Healthy Babies became very interested in the issue of young women and body image, as it related to health during pregnancy. A group of interested volunteers invited a representative from Mediawatch in Toronto to present a workshop on images of women portrayed in the media. As a result of this workshop, they decided to form a group in Barrie called Media Aware of Barrie to help young people to better understand and interpret the media images that are constantly in front of them. Their brochure sites disturbing statistics about young women and the dieting industry, and the high rates of anorexia and bulimia in Canada (over 50,000 cases between ages 14-24).

Media Aware has worked with the Simcoe County Board of Education to create curriculum on body image and violence in the media. These curriculum outlines were mounted on the Board's own website last fall. Call Kim Shadgett for more information at (705)725-8352

Address; Media Aware of Barrie

Unit1-A #4 Alliance Blvd.

Barrie, ON

L4M 5J1


8. U.S. Links: Media Literacy On-Line Project (University of Oregon):

Includes a directory of media literacy organizations from A-Z around the world: