KAVI’s media education supporting democracy, social resilience and comprehensive security

Promoting media education has long been a statutory task of the National Audiovisual Institute of Finland (KAVI). The Ministry of Education and Culture may also define the Agency’s tasks more precisely, and in particular the promotion of critical media literacy is seen as an important part of our media education mission. In 2023, the strengthening of democratisation and national resilience against information influencing was added to KAVI’s tasks and objectives. In addition, KAVI should consider the promotion of media literacy as part of the overall security and social security strategy. What is it all about? Is the media education authority turning into a security authority?

The short answer to the last question is: no, it is not. In a longer answer, I will explain how we take into account the new mandates and objectives in KAVIs media education work.

The new priorities are driven by changes in the information environment. Whether they are long-term or short-term changes depends on the perspective. However, issues such as the growing importance of social media as a source of information, the gradual loss of trust in journalism and other institutions, large-scale disinformation campaigns and the spread of conspiracy theories, hostile state information operations, and using deep fakes made with the help of new technologies in shaping social opinion have alerted decision-makers and authorities in the EU and Finland. First, it has been realised that the internet and social media may not be as positive arenas of opportunity as they were perceived to be 10-20 years ago. Secondly, it has been concluded that better media literacy among the population could protect democracy and the stability of societies.

Media literacy as part of psychological resilience

In Finland, media literacy has for years been taken into account as part of the Security Strategy for the Society (2017). The strategy harmonises the principles of preparedness and guides preparedness. Media literacy is seen as part of “psychological resilience”. According to the strategy, “[e]ncouraging critical media literacy and digital basic skills and promoting reliable journalism and media atmosphere strengthen civic participation, help citizens to safely navigate in a multifaceted media environment and help to counter disinformation.” Finland’s overall approach to security is unique in the international arena. It is based on the idea that the vital functions of society are taken care of through cooperation between public authorities, business, organisations, and citizens. Security does not only come from the activities of the security authorities. A secure and crisis-resistant Finland is built together, with each actor working on its own basic task.

Cross-sectoral cooperation

The best way for us at KAVI to make a difference is to do our task of promoting media education and media literacy as well as we can. For us, this means doing high-quality work and working together widely and appropriately to increase the impact of our activities. We wan to to support as many professionals as possible who promote media literacy in their work. To this end, we have a constantly evolving Media Literacy School website, which offers a wealth of media education teaching and information materials. We also train professionals in different fields and offer online training open to all.

But media literacy is not a panacea for building democratic and sustainable societies. We see it as part of the “building block” of social resilience that is the result of quality education, social and health policies. As university lecturer Tapio Juntunen has argued (in Finnish), alongside crisis resilience is societal adaptability: the ability to adapt positively to new circumstances following a crisis. Such adaptability requires social structures that strengthen social and political trust and reduce experiences of inequality. One part of this is to provide people with ample opportunities to develop their (critical) media literacy. Media literacy provides not only understanding and skills to assess the reliability of messages, but also opportunities and democratic means to influence and participate in social debate. Even if the message is critical of those in power or of us in authority. Media education does not dictate what to think but gives us the means to think and act when we want to.

Societal resilience is built not only at the systemic level, but also on the level of individuals and communities. Media education practices and objectives that support the well-being of individuals and communities, mutual trust, a sense of belonging and empathy are important not only for individuals and communities themselves, but also for society as a whole. In 2024, our special focus in media education will be on well-being. 

However, the most obvious impact of the new priorities will be on our collaboration within government. It is important that the government knows what part KAVI plays in the overall security puzzle. We will therefore continue to intensify our joint work and exchange of information with our colleagues in different sections of the government.

For years, the Media Education and Audiovisual Media department and the Media education team at KAVI have been working on the idea that promoting media literacy supports people’s ability to live a good life and contributes to maintaining and developing a sound economy. We believe that media literacy contributes to democracy and peace both in Finland and internationally. Our core objectives remain unchanged, although our work is also seen through a new framework.

Senior Adviser

Saara Salomaa

National Audiovisual Institute

Photo: Smederevac / iStock