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Media literacy in the Indian public sphere

Monday 4 January 2016, by SIGNIS

Mumbai, Brussels, January 4th, 2016 (SIGNIS/ K V Nagaraj/ Vedabhyas Kundu/ Ashes Kr. Nayak ). Three Indian specialists in media education, K V Nagaraj, Vedabhyas Kundu and Ashes Kr. Nayak, recently published an interesting article in which they argued that media literacy is becoming more marginalised in the Indian public sphere. Their article “Marginalization of Media Literacy in Indian Public Sphere” can be consulted here.

The first of their many observations is that the public sphere is shrinking with the dominance of private ownership of media and market forces. The public sphere is slowly emerging as a conflict arena between corporate and civil society activities. In light of these perspectives, efforts should be made to empower and enhance the capacities of citizens to evaluate media performance critically and this confirms the need for media literacy programmes.

No formal media and information literacy studies in India

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Ashes Kr. Nayak

Since there is no formal media and information literacy course in any academic institution in the country, the gap is to be bridged by third sector initiatives. The thrust of such initiatives, however, should be able to capture the multicultural and pluralistic nature of Indian society.

The enormous influence and interests of the corporate in the media sector do not unfortunately provide much scope for media literacy promotion. K.J. Kumar has said that “The primary goals of media education are thus the conscientization, empowerment and liberation of the community and of society as a whole. Its concerns are the promotion of equality, social justice, democracy, freedom, human dignity and a more humane society. The methods or strategies it employs are dialogue, reflection and action.”
He links media education to ‘national development’ and argues the need for education for citizenship and democracy’.

While arguing the need to incorporate all traditional and indigenous forms of communications in pedagogy of media literacy, two other media researchers K.V.Nagaraj and Vedabhyas Kundu emphasise the centrality of emotional bridge building and respect for and understanding of other’s culture in the curriculum. They further underline the significance of Mahatma Gandhi’s nonviolent communication approaches in the curriculum of media literacy. Gandhi’s nonviolent communication can help in plugging obstacles to public discourses in the backdrop of different conflicts in different layers of Indian society.

Bano underlines how critical understanding of culture and traditions is important to respond to present realities and complexities. Issues and concerns in Ladakh could be totally different in comparison to Andaman and Nicobar Island, she points out. Unless and until we have the capacities to reflect meaning fully to concerns of others, we will not be able to contribute much to the strengthening of our democracy, she adds.

The need to develop critical understanding of social media

Another important aspect of media literacy education for enabling citizen’s contribution to the digital public sphere is developing critical understanding of the social media and its use. Syeda Rumana Mehdi underscores how the social media could be used creatively by young people for promoting a culture of peace.

The first steps to introduce media literacy

Further, according to young people like Ratna Kumari from a backward village of India who were trained in media, critical use of communications not only empowered girls like her but also gave them the insight to look seriously on issues such as girls’ education, health and sanitation. Meanwhile the Media and Information Literacy Curriculum for teachers developed by UNESCO in 2011 provides an important component in the global effort to promote media and information literate societies.

The time has come now to seriously consider the issue of marginalisation of media literacy in the public sphere and revitalise it by the concerted efforts of public policies to promote media and information literacy through the education system and media activists.

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