Media literacy in Germany and Bulgaria – what we learned from the 2022 multi-stakeholder expert meeting co-organized by MLC and FNF for Freedom

On October 11, Tuesday, Friedrich Naumann Freedom Foundation and Media Literacy Coalition Bulgaria (MLC) organized an expert meeting at which the challenges, perspectives and good practices in developing media literacy among citizens in Bulgaria and Germany were outlined. The event was held in a hybrid format and livestreamed on the MLC’s Facebook page.

The discussion was focused on reaffirming the importance and clarifying the role and distributed responsibility of the different stakeholders in the development and implementation of the media literacy policy developed, on the one hand, by the European Union, and on the other – at the national level.

The meeting was held in two sessions:

  •         presentations of the panelists – experts from Germany and Bulgaria
  •         a round table with the participation of all present representatives of the Ministry of Culture’s Media Literacy Expert Council, the Media Literacy Coalition and invited experts with interest and experience in the field

The five panelists who took part in the first part of the meeting with consecutive project a and/or theme-specific presentations were

Jannis Hahn – a research fellow and a PhD student at the Department of School Pedagogy at the Julius-Maximilians-University of Würzburg;

Isabella Schmid – the head of the media literacy projects (Medienkompetenz) of the Bayerischer Rundfunk – the Bavarian public broadcaster; 

Dr. Ivan Valchanov – a lecturer and chief assistant in the Media and Public Communications Department of the University of National and World Economy;

Prolet Velkova – a member of the broadcast media regulator in Bulgaria and a well-known journalist and program host with many years of experience in TV and radio;

Iglika Ivanova – a member of the MLC’s board, a member of the Media Literacy Expert Council at the Ministry of Culture, and Co-Director of the Northeast Media Literacy Conference supported by Media Education Lab at the University of Rhode Island, Kingston, RI

Jannis Hahn – in the center

Jannis Hahn is a research fellow and a PhD student at the Department of School Pedagogy at the Julius-Maximilians-University of Würzburg; associate member of the German Society for Educational Research (DGfE) – Media Education Section, School Education Section, and of the German Educational Research Association (GERA) – Media Education Section, School Pedagogy Section; a member of the National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) and of the support group of the Academy for Political Education (ApB). 

Jannis opened the panel session with insightful presentation on the media literacy frameworks in German education, best practices in initial teacher education (ITE) through a case study on ITE seminar that was already implemented and assessed, the scope of the media educational competencies and the demands of ITE and school education in Germany.

Isabella Schmid (screenshot from the video recording)

Isabella Schmid is the head of the media literacy projects (Medienkompetenz) of the Bayerischer Rundfunk – the Bavarian public broadcaster based in Munich which has 10 radio programs and two television programs and a large online offer and is a member of the consortium of public broadcasters in Germany ARD, vice-chair of the board of the Listening Foundation and board member of Mediencampus Bayern.

She presented school projects organized by the Bayerischer Rundfunk as ARD-Jugendmedientag on 15 November 2022, TurnOn – around 50 school radios per year, and Young Reporter – stories by young people for young people; and teachers training programs: weekly online workshops and webtalks, two-year training with four compact workshops and two-year training as a media expert for Eastern European German teachers.

Dr Valchanov – on the left

Dr. Ivan Valchanov is a lecturer and chief assistant in the Media and Public Communications Department of the University of National and World Economy (UNWE’s MPCD). He is part of the UNWE’s MPCD-based team, which in 2022 conducted a survey and have been working on a monograph on teacher attitudes and practices regarding the study of media literacy in secondary schools.

More than 500 teachers took part of this survey with 7 of every 10 of them teaching students in 8 to 12 grade. Through the survey teachers had the opportunity to articulate what they understand by media literacy, and what are the main deficits of state policy for implementing media literacy in Bulgarian schools from their perspective. Among the highlights of the findings is the that predominant part of respondents think schools and universities should join forces in educating teachers and creating teaching resources in the field of media literacy. The monography itself has the added value to present a review of media literacy concepts and definitions and some of the Bulgarian and world practices in the field of media literacy.

Prolet Velkova

Prolet Velkova was elected and since 2022 is among the five members of the Electronic Media Council (CEM) – the broadcast media regulator in Bulgaria. She has been a well known and acclaimed journalist for many years – first at the Bulgarian National Radio, where she began her journalistic career as the host of one of the first journalistic programs on the public service radio, and subsequently and to this day at Darik Radio – the largest private radio station in Bulgaria.

Prolet Velkova is a participant and initiator of various civic activities in the field of democratic values, media, human rights, education, ecology. She was also elected as a member of the Electronic Media Ethical Commission in its first composition and was honored with numerous awards from the journalistic guild and civil sector organizations. Her participation as a speaker in the forum was significant step towards the factual involvement and structured engagement of the media regulator in the cross-sectoral coordination between media literacy stakeholder in Bulgaria. It was stated that CEM is planning to organize round tables and regular expert meetings and to partner with MLC and CSOs on future media literacy initiatives.

Iglika Ivanova – on the left

Iglika Ivanova is a doctoral student and lecturer at the European Studies Department and Library and Information Sciences of the Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski”, a member of the organization’s board. In 2021, Iglika became a member of the Media Literacy Expert Council at the Ministry of Culture, and is currently holding the position of the Co-Director of the Northeast Media Literacy Conference supported by Media Education Lab at the University of Rhode Island, Kingston, RI, of which Iglika is also a member since the start of 2022.

Iglika presented the state of media literacy in Bulgaria through the lens of media policy development on a European level (the European approach) and in Bulgaria where media literacy and media education are still relatively new concepts and are only now beginning to be considered and introduced explicitly as a goal of the educational process. What’s more problematic, the media has yet to be convinced that increasing theirs audiences media literacy is their job (and in their interest) too, and the media regulator is yet to be involved in a meaningful and sustainable way even if it carries the responsibility to be part of the media literacy policy-making and policy-implementation institutional capacity.

In the second half of the conference, what are some of the challenges and obstacles in front of the adequate and effective implementation of measures for the increase of media literacy among Bulgarian citizens was discussed. It is understood that these obstacles and challenges are originating to a huge part by the political crisis in Bulgaria, the state of media system (limited media freedom and trust crisis, among others), the inconsistency of educational reform, the missing stakeholders (both media and the media regulator, but also businesses), the lack of predictability and long-term vision due to the way of financing. In this part of the conference members of the Coalition, the ML Expert Council, founded by and attached to the Ministry of Culture, representatives of academia and CSO, among others, had the chance to express their views, to ask questions to the panelists, to outline the themes and leitmotivs of the debate.

Video recording of the expert meeting with English language translation and photo gallery of the event could be seen here: Media Literacy in Germany and Bulgaria: expert meeting 2022. Video and gallery

Photo credit: Anton Vassilev / Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom

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