Professor Suggests Working Online Ethics Plots Into Primetime

A new report from the Aspen Institute and Knight
Foundation calls digital and media literacy an "essential life
skill," and outlines a plan for educating kids and adults, including
incorporating local and national news media into education programs and getting
entertainment companies to work online ethics storylines into their

"Digital and Media Literacy: A Plan of Action"
says that the public needs those skills now to be able to make informed
decisions about health, politics, work and leisure time, all of which are
increasingly being conducted in the digital space, and interactively.

"Today full participation in contemporary
culture requires not just consuming messages, but also creating and sharing
them," said the report.

The ten-point plan includes targeted grants to
integrate digital media literacy into existing programs as well as creating new
summer school programs at charter schools, creating a Digital and Media
Literacy Youth Corp., getting the entertainment industry engaged in an
initiative to raise awareness about ethical online behavior, and launching an
annual conference and educator showcase competition in D.C. on digital and
media literacy education.

On getting entertainment companies to spread the
word about online ethics, the report suggests that the FCC "informally
encourage" them to work sub-plots on teasing, spying,
harassment, cyberbullying and sexting into their primetime

There is precedent for such an effort.
The Office of National Drug Control Policy has in the past encouraged
programmers to insert anti-drug messages into the plots of entertainment shows,
but in that case it essentially paid them to do so.

The report also suggests that news media should
offer up "modest" education grants and encourage schools,
libraries and museums to apply for them, partnering with the news organizations
to help educate teachers and others about the "host of innovative
online news tools already on the market."

The report makes clear that digital media literacy
is not a panacea. "[I]t will not let media companies and producers off the
hook when it comes to their own social responsibility," it warns.

The White Paper, from Professor Renee Hobbs,
founder of the Media Education Lab at Temple University, was a follow-up to one
of the key recommendations in the Informing Communities report from the Knight
The Aspen Institute commissioned a series of papers on implementing the
commission's 15 recommendations for digital meeting information needs.

This is the second of those papers, following a Universal broadband
paper by former FCC National Broadband Plan chief advisor Blair Levin.

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.