Media literacy education has a long historical tradition in France, connected to the vital role of critical thinking in citizenship. Media education is seen as key for preserving democracy, and as such, it begins at a young age. Ensuring that all pupils master media and digital literacy skills is also seen as a way to reduce cultural and social inequalities.
Internet user skills in France are slightly above the EU average, according to the 2022 European Commission DESI index. Just over two-thirds of people – 69%, according to the Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2022 – access news online weekly, and 40% get news from social media. The same report found low levels of trust in news compared to other countries, and the 2021 report specified that trust was particularly low for online news (20%) and news on social media (15%). According to the 2021 Media Pluralism Monitor, this lack of trust is related to a rise in conspiracy theories.
France has an active media literacy scene, and the European Audiovisual Observatory’s 2016 Media Literacy Mapping in EU-28 report found that France recorded the highest number of media literacy networks (25) of any country studied. The Media Pluralism Monitor reports from 2021 and 2022 concluded that media literacy programs are strong, but unequally implemented across the country. They note also that the 2015 terrorist attacks have contributed to growing awareness of media literacy challenges.
To find out more about media literacy in France, see Media & Learning’s dedicated webinar (June 2021).
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Who is responsible for media literacy at a national level?
CLEMI (Le centre pour l’éducation aux médias et à l’information) is responsible for Media and Information Literacy (MIL) in the French education system. It reports to the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport (Ministère de L’Éducation, de la Jeunesse et des Sports).
Its approach is based on skills rather than on tools, aiming to give children the skills to be able to question and verify the information they are exposed to. It has a network of more than 30 national coordinators who work with teachers and education professionals to train them to teach ML skills to children. Using local coordinators helps as they understand the local context and have connections with local press and media.
CLEMI organises “la Semaine de la presse et des médias dans l’école” (News and media in schools week). Its other programmes in schools include critical thinking workshops, a game called ‘Classe investigation’ and ‘Classes presse’ run by regional branches.
In addition to targeting schools, CLEMI also seeks to improve media literacy levels in children by addressing families, with a written kit and teaching kit, short TV series and workshops.
Official media literacy policies/framework
A 2013 school reform law (La loi pour la refondation de l’Ecole) specified that schools had a role to play in developing citizenship in the media-information society. This law was reinforced in 2015 after the terrorist attacks in Paris: given the spread of conspiracy theories, disinformation and the lack of regulations of online behaviours, regulatory bodies Arcom (Autorité de régulation de la communication audiovisuelle et numérique, created in early 2022 out of a merger between the CSA and HADOPI) and the CNIL (Commission nationale de l’informatique et des libertés) started activities to promote media literacy. They both partnered with CLEMI. From 2015, national media like France Télévisions, Radio France and France Média Monde have also been obliged to engage in media literacy activities.
A 2018 law to tackle the manipulation of information (LOI n° 2018-1202 du 22 décembre 2018 relative à la lutte contre la manipulation de l’information – known colloquially as the ‘fake news law’) requires online platforms to take various steps, including committing to media literacy efforts. This commitment is supposed to be multifaceted: an obligation to enable users to identify online media sources, the development of tools to verify the reliability of media sources (and these tools have to be made available to the public), creation of partnerships with media literacy actors in France and support for their projects and events, relaying of media literacy awareness campaigns, support for disinformation researchers with regulated access to certain data. A July 2020 assessment of the companies’ progress is available here.
The status of media literacy in the national curriculum
Media and information literacy (or EMI – Education aux médias et à l’information) has been part of the national curriculum since 2015. It isn’t one specific course, but cuts across many subjects, and there are many opportunities to teach it across the school. According to éduscol, the Directorate of School Education (part of the Ministry of Education), the goal of media and information education is to allow pupils to exercise their citizenship rights in an information and communication society, and to develop future ‘cybercitizens’ who are active, enlightened and responsible. In 2022, the Ministry of Education published a bulletin that said that the teaching of EMI must be strengthened.
Education in media and information starts as young as six years old. For older children, aged 11+, MIL is a specific part of the curriculum, and the new curriculum for ages 14+ contains subjects specifically related to the history of media and press, and the functioning of social networks and digital media.
Teacher-librarians play an important role, according to CLEMI: schools often have libraries where students can access newspapers and other media and the teacher-librarians tend to be very involved in MIL activities by conducting specific MIL projects in conjunction with other teachers.
The Media Pluralism Monitor 2022 report found, however, that strong disparities exist between the existing tools available to teachers, and the reality of their implementation. The report noted that the approach was heterogenous at a national level, and that teacher don’t always appreciate a heavily top-down approach. A 2021 report by an expert group for the Ministry of Education called for a more coherent media and information literacy curriculum that would include every age group.
Other media literacy stakeholders
An association working on media and information education, and digital literacy. Runs various projects including YouVerify, which aims to help young people develop critical visual literacy skills.
An association dedicated to media and information literacy founded by journalists, with a network of more than 200 volunteer journalists who run news literacy workshops across France.
France’s leading news agency is involved in various media literacy and debunking projects that complement its fact-checking operations, including collaboration with Facebook on a campaign to combat COVID-19 misinformation.
State-owned international news network France24 produces debunking shows such as ‘Truth or Fake’ which focuses on how to identify false images circulating online, and is participating in US organisation Poynter’s MediaWise international digital media literacy programme to tackle misinformation.
Safer Internet France runs Safer Internet Day, and along with education specialist Tralalere, runs ‘Internet sans crainte’ which provides resources and training on digital literacy and safety to children, their families and their teachers.
Les Allocations Familiales (CAF)
Developed the ‘Promeneurs du Net’ (Web Walkers) project, whereby professionals reach out to young people via social networks and guide them as they access and assess information, encouraging a critical mindset.