Belgium’s population has an unusual linguistic makeup which has widespread implications, including on media literacy. The Dutch-speaking Flemish Community comprises about almost 60% of the population, while the French speaking Community comprises about 40%. German is also officially recognised and is spoken as a first language by just under 1% of the population, in Ostbelgien. Educational and cultural policies are decided at a Community level, along language lines. There are also distinct media markets and regulatory systems, and media literacy policies and initiatives will likely address either one community or the other.
According to the European Audiovisual Observatory’s 2016 Media Literacy Mapping in EU-28 report, media literacy initiatives have a long history in Dutch-speaking Flanders, but media literacy policy started in earnest with the introduction of the Media Literacy Concept Brief (Conceptnota Mediawijsheid) from the Flemish Government in 2012, jointly developed by the Minister of Media and the Minister of Education. The Flemish Knowledge Centre for Digital and Media Literacy (Mediawijs) was established in 2013 to stimulate and coordinate media literacy initiatives.
In the French-speaking Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles, the EAO 2016 report explains that media literacy activity started in the 1980s, first as an initiative of civil society, teachers and educators but it has grown to be of interest to a wider range of actors. In 2008 the High Council for Media Education of the French Community of Belgium (Conseil Supérieur de l’éducation aux medias) was established to promote media education.
The 2022 Media Pluralism Monitor found a notable difference between the two language communities in terms of media literacy provision, although both have dedicated media bodies that work on media literacy. The Flemish Community has had media literacy included in formal and non-formal educational settings for some time, while this is still under development in the French Community.
Internet user skills in Belgium are very close to the EU average, according to the 2022 European Commission DESI index, and there are concerns about the relatively high proportion of people who lack digital skills.
To find out more about media literacy in the Flanders Region, please see the Media & Learning Association’s dedicated webinar (November 2020)
EDMO hub membership
Within EDMO BELUX, Mediawijs and Média Animation coordinate the media literacy activities in the different communities, and within BENEDMO, Mediawijs is also an associate partner (along with Netwerk Mediawijsheid in the Netherlands).
Key media literacy activities of EDMO BELUX:
- Creation of repository of educational tools about disinformation
- EDMO BELUX’s media literacy partners Mediawijs and Média Animation have been analysing peer-to-peer websites for teachers – KlasCement.be and e-classe.be – to find out which teaching materials about disinformation teachers share with each other, which they use a lot and which they like. This analysis provides an indication of what kind of educational material is desirable and what teachers really need.
- With additional desk research they found extra tools. All tools were presented to a feedback panel of experts, who selected the most suitable tools.
- The final selection consists of 30 tools on different topics (news, disinformation and learning to form opinions) for different age groups. Educational tools from Flanders, French-speaking Belgium and Luxemburg are included.
- Tutorials – created by AFP – aimed at helping journalists, educators and the public to spot disinformation.
- Training events for media literacy practitioners in Flanders, French-speaking Belgium and Luxemburg.
- Preparing media literacy campaigns in both French and Dutch.
Key media literacy activities of BENEDMO in Flanders:
BENEDMO is building an inventory of the existing teaching materials in the field of media literacy and brings a selection of these to the attention of a wider audience. In addition, they are looking at the supply and need for learning materials for media professionals and journalists and based on this, will develop custom training courses.
Martin Culot, Média Animation, [email protected]
Bert Pieters, Mediawijs, [email protected]
Zara Mommerency, Mediawijs, [email protected]
Who is responsible for media literacy at a national level?
In Flanders, the Flemish Knowledge Centre for Digital and Media Literacy, Mediawijs, was established in 2013, aiming to help the Flemish Community understand digital technology and media in order to participate in society.
In the Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles, the Conseil Supérieur de l’éducation aux medias (High Council for Media Education of the French Community of Belgium), or CSEM, was established in 2008 to promote media education and encourage the exchange of information and cooperation between all actors and organizations concerned with media education in the French Community, in particular the sectors of the various media, compulsory education and lifelong education.
For the German-speaking community in Ostbelgien, a dedicated media centre (Ostbelgien Medienzentrum) aims to promote what it describes as ‘media competence’ and offers media education activities targeted at all age groups.
The Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles Government adopted the Plan Éducation aux Médias (Media Education Plan) in January 2022 that outlines its intentions to:
- Integrate media education into the compulsory school curriculum and support media education in higher education
- Develop and evaluate the work of the CSEM
- Reinforce collaborations between different media education actors
- Reinforce and develop media education work with children and parents, youth groups, cultural centres and digital public spaces
- Develop more media education research.
In 2012, the Flemish Government approved the Conceptnota Mediawijsheid (Concept Note on Media Literacy) which had been jointly developed by the Minister of Media and Minister of Education and Youth. This provided a broad definition of media literacy and identified four strategic goals for media literacy policy:
- Creating a strategic and sustainable framework for media literacy.
- Stimulating and increasing competences.
- Creating an e-inclusive society and eliminating the digital divide.
- Creating a safe and responsible media environment, especially for young people.
More recently, the Youth and Children’s Rights Policy Plan 2020-2024 adopted by the Flemish Government includes a strategy and concrete actions on media literacy. And in 2022, in the context of the Flemish Resilience Plan (Plan Vlaamse Veerkracht: a plan to strengthen the prosperity and well-being of the Flemish people after covid), extra resources were temporarily deployed to support local authorities in setting up and strengthening their digital inclusion activities and to provide news and information literacy among young people.
According to an agreement between the government and the municipalities of German-speaking Ostbelgien made in 2018, the municipalities took responsibility for ensuring that media and information literacy would be taught in all schools.
Additionally, a new media decree was adopted on March 1, 2021, which explicitly states that TV channels, radio channels and video sharing platforms must actively promote media literacy in the German-speaking community.
The status of media literacy in the national school curriculum
From 2019, new targets for media literacy in the first grade of secondary education were agreed, focused on understanding how digital media systems work, how to participate in them, and on the impact of media on society. From 2021, new objectives were agreed for the second and third stages of secondary education which built on those in the first stage. The targets are considered transversal goals, so they are part of other key competences.
A 1997 decree on the missions of schools included a requirement to highlight the importance of media literacy. This is in the process of being replaced by the Pacte pour un enseignement d’excellence (Pact on teaching excellence), which also mentions the importance of media education as a cross-curricular objective. As part of the process of implementing the Pacte, CSEM has drawn up a document for teachers that identifies the content and expectations relating to media education across various disciplines in the curriculum, and at different stages.
The new Plan Éducation aux Médias commits to increasing the presence of media literacy education in the curriculum’s competency frameworks, and to increase teacher training in media literacy.
According to the OECD iLibrary, the German-speaking Community’s core curricula emphasise the concept of media and information competency (Informations- und Medienkompetenz, IMK) as a transversal set of skills to be developed across subjects from the first year of primary school to the end of secondary education. To support teachers in fostering media and information competency, the Education Ministry provides a teachers’ guide (IMK-Leitfaden), developed in 2013, as well as a list of learning objectives for each stage of education and corresponding learning materials.
The position of initiatives targeted at those not in formal education
In both larger communities, the dedicated media literacy body has a responsibility to those outside formal education. In the Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles, the CSEM was created to address the media literacy needs of all citizens, from early childhood to the elderly. Similarly, Mediawijs in Flanders aims to stimulate media literacy within and outside formal education, and runs several projects addressed at adults.
There are many organisations involved in media literacy in Belgium. Just a few of the key players in each region are listed here, to give a sense of who is operating:
- Mediawijs – the Flemish Knowledge Centre for Digital and Media Literacy, a research and best practice based initiative established by the Flemish government to stimulate digital and media literacy, working with the public, the media sector, intermediaries, researchers and policymakers. Its initiatives include coordinating the Niews in de Klas (News in the Classroom) project, and running De Schaal van M, a programme focusing on the responsible use of devices and social media for 10-12 year-olds inspired by the Dutch initiative MediaMasters.
- StampMedia – youth media agency operating in Flanders that specifically targets young people with a migrant background in the city of Antwerp to educate them about careers in journalism, and talk about how they are framed in the media. Experiments with how new news formats can reach young people better.
- VRT – the Flemish public broadcaster has a role to play in terms of increasing media literacy levels of all Flemish citizens, as part of its educational remit. It produces EDUbox (in partnership with Mediawijs) which provides classroom resources on topics like democracy and fake news, includes exercises and assignments as well as an extensive digital section with audiovisual material. These are being adapted for other markets as part of the EDUMAKE project.
- Link in de Kabel – aims to increase the digital skills and media literacy of socially vulnerable young people.
- E.F – focuses on making films available to young people and increasing their film literacy by encouraging critical viewing. It runs an annual youth film festival based in Antwerp.
- Mediaraven – focuses on the opportunities offered by digital media, operating workshops and camps for young people, and training on digital media literacy for those who work with young people.
- Conseil supérieur de l’Education aux Médias (CSEM) – the High Council for Media Literacy – is the public authority in charge of Media Literacy for the Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles. Its goals include the coordination of ML initiatives, communication and dissemination of ML in all the sectors of the society, common framework and positions related to media phenomenon, evaluation and funding of specific initiatives, giving advice to ministers and government.
- Média Animation – a media and multimedia education resource centre for the French-speaking Community’s private education, recognized and subsidized by the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Culture. It aims to stimulate media and multimedia education as part of a citizenship approach for the benefit of the whole school and education community.
- LieDetectors – a news literacy organisation that brings journalists into schools to work with teachers and students to increase awareness of misinformation and further the public’s understanding of the news industry.
- Action Médias Jeunes – a youth organisation focused on media education for 3-35 year-olds across FWB, carrying out workshops and training programmes. It aims to build critical thinking skills.
- The Ostbelgien Medienzentrum, or Media Centre in Eupen started as the central library for the German speaking community in Belgium. Central to its work today is the promotion of media literacy. A media education team offers age-appropriate activities related to all media for various target groups from 0 to 99 years. Citizens can ask questions and assistance relating to digital media.