Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Call for Media Literacy Reaches Capitol Hill

Today, Academy Award-winning actor Geena Davis and other leaders from the entertainment, policy, business and youth-serving communities joined forces to examine media literacy and healthy images.

The Healthy Media for Youth Summit, a partnership of Girl Scouts of the USA, the National Association of Broadcasters, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, and The Creative Coalition, considered and identified ways to promote media messages that inspire, empower and engage youth. Ms. Davis was joined by other Hollywood luminaries and members of The Creative Coalition including Emmy-Award winner Alfre Woodard, Steven Weber, Teri Polo, and Rachael Leigh Cook.

Many girls struggle throughout their lives with how to reconcile the images of girls and women they see in the media with their own body image, self worth and potential. Earlier this year, the Girl Scout Research Institute released a nationwide survey, Beauty Redefined, which found that the media has significant influence over girls. Nearly 90 percent of those surveyed say the fashion industry and/or the media place a lot of pressure on them to be thin, even as they realized that the fashion industry’s models were “too skinny” (65 percent), “unrealistic” (63 percent) and “unhealthy” (46 percent). However, despite the criticism of this industry, 3 out of 4 girls say that fashion is “really important” to them.

Recognizing the importance of this topic, GSUSA, NAB, NCTA and The Creative Coalition hosted today’s Healthy Media for Youth Summit where keynote speaker and long-time advocate for women and girls, Geena Davis led a conversation about ways to promote healthy images and media literacy. Davis is the founder of the non‐profit The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, and its programming arm See Jane, which engages film and television creators to dramatically increase the percentages of female characters.

The summit brought together experts to lead discussions on the many aspects of healthy images and media literacy. Panelists included: Salaam Coleman Smith, President of The Style Network; Suzanne Malveaux, CNN White House correspondent; Ann Shoket, Editor‐in‐Chief Seventeen Magazine; Emme, Supermodel and leading advocate for positive body images; Erin Fuller, CEO of Alliance for Women in Media; Maria Brennan, CEO Women in Cable Telecommunications; Kim Myles, host of HGTV’s Myles of Styles; Jess Weiner, author, self‐esteem expert and the Global Ambassador for the Dove Self‐Esteem Fund; Lisa Dollinger, Chief Communications Officer, Clear Channel Communications, Inc.; Judy Schoenberg, Director of Research and Outreach, Girl Scouts of the USA; April McClain‐Delaney, DC Director, Common Sense Media; Teen Girl Scouts from the Girl Scout Council of the Nation’s Capital. Also addressing the conference were FCC Commissioner Meredith Attwell Baker; Kyle McSlarrow, President & CEO, NCTA; Gordon Smith, President & CEO, NAB; and Robin Bronk, CEO, The Creative Coalition.

Also at the summit a new public service announcement was unveiled urging youth to “watch what you watch” and have a greater understanding about the images in media. The PSA directs viewers to a new website which offers media literacy information and resources.

As a follow up to the Healthy Media for Youth Summit , there are plans to establish a “blue ribbon” panel to further explore the issue of healthy media for youth and to offer specific recommendations to promote them. Plans are also underway to convene “community conversations” in several locations around the country to address the issue.