The YNN Show and Media Literacy

By Chris Worsnop.

YNN says that exposing students to daily doses of YNN news will develop media literacy. Sometimes we hear from YNN supporters that media literacy will be used to defuse the effects of the daily ads in the YNN show. There seems to be some conflict between these two views of media literacy. The first claims that media literacy has to do with finding out stuff about "news" through the media, specifically the YNN show. The second suggests that exposure to advertising can be a dangerous thing and that media literacy can help defend us against those dangers. One thinks of media as a totally good and benevolent thing, and the other seems to take exactly the opposite view.

Well, the problem really is that the people making these statements do not know much about media literacy, and so they get it all mixed up. A shining example of people who know nothing about media literacy, and appear to be proud of it, can be found on the Peel Board's website where a totally one-sided version of the YNN show is offered for unsuspecting inquirers.

In one thing they are right: media literacy is important. Most of the rest they have to say on the topic is gobbledygook. Who am I to say? Modesty forbids, but my media education credentials will be made available to any who wish to ask.

There will certainly be some media literacy concepts for students to learn from their daily exposure to the YNN show. You are not likely, though, to see these concepts advertised in YNN promos. They will be the likes of: News on TV is not reality, but only a version of reality. There is no such thing as an objective report. Someone decides which stories are reported and not reported, and what approach the reporting will take. A daily dose of a one-sided interpretation of the world is called propaganda.

News from a single source tends to have a single (group of ) bias(es). Checking the stories that do not get reported is sometimes more important than paying attention to the ones that do. News that is tied to commercial sponsorship is subject to influence from its commercial sponsors (This is true of CBC and it's federal controllers also). The name given to this influence is: censorship.

From the commercial part of the YNN show there will be - among others - these available lessons in media literacy:

  • Advertisers do not care if you (or your family) can afford a product, they just want you to buy.

  • Advertisers do not care if a product is safe, healthy or essential, they just want you to buy.

  • Advertisers do not want to offer you information about products so much as the emotional baggage they can create around the products to make them appear more desirable - so that you will buy.

  • Advertisers do not care if the product they are pushing undermines values promoted elsewhere in the school curriculum: inactivity/fitness; bad/good nutrition; passivity/activity; profligacy/rugality; selfishness/altruism; immediate gratification/delayed gratification; consumerism/conservation; materialism/aestheticism) they just want you to buy.

I somehow doubt if the YNN show intends for media literacy to teach students the kinds of lessons listed above. YNN, like our present Ontario government with all its ideological allies, will insist that media literacy is not about interpreting media messages, not about critical analysis at all, but about knowing the names of the different kinds of camera shots and angles, and being able to define the difference between a cut and a wipe, and so on. In the brave new world of "improved" education, understanding and deep thinking are moved to the rearmost burner, with the power turned off. Just give me the facts.

Can we conclude, then, that the YNN show's version of media literacy would be one that encouraged the students to swallow whole the representations of events that are versioned in its programs? That it would want to discourage critical analysis, and that it would want to present the commercials as merely a natural phenomenon in our world? That it would condemn any oppositional interpretation of its materials as being "political" while at the same time denying any ideological bias in itself? That it would want to suggest that the most natural and desirable form of activity and self expression in society is the purchasing of goods? That it would offer materialism as the official religion of Ontario's education system?

Well, thank you, not with my daughter you don't.

Chris Worsnop
Wright Communications
2400 Dundas Street West
Unit 6, Suite 7
Mississauga, ON
L5K 1H9
Phone: 095-823-9875