What we see – and don’t see – in media affects how we view reality. Media works can be imagined either as mirrors that reflect an audience’s own experience, windows that give them access to experiences they otherwise wouldn’t have known, or in some cases both.

In this lesson students learn about the systems used to classify films, TV programs and video games. Students are asked to take a critical look at the criteria applied to classify these media products, and then take into account and discuss the underlying social and political aspects arising from those systems.

Students are introduced to the idea of “privilege” in relation to diversity and how it applies to media. They then look at a checklist of media related privileges to help them understand the concept.

Framed around key concepts of media literacy, the That’s Not Me tutorial examines how entertainment and news media represent diversity and the impact these media portrayals can have on the value we place on individuals and groups in society. The tutorial explores how the media industry is changing to better reflect Canadian society and provides strategies for challenging negative representations and engaging young people in advocating for more realistic and positive media portrayals.

Teachers who include media literacy in their classrooms often face issues that don’t arise in other subjects. Nothing illustrates this better than the issue of diversity in media. It’s not unreasonable for teachers to see the topic as a can of worms and be concerned about offending students and their parents – not to mention worrying about what the students themselves might say. At the same time, it’s a topic that is simply too important to be ignored: what we see in media hugely influences how we see others, ourselves and the world. As a result, an ability to analyze media depictions of diversity is not only a key element of being media literate, it’s essential to understanding many of the social issues and concerns that we face as citizens. That’s why Media Awareness Network has developed That’s Not Me – a new online tutorial for professional development to help educators and community leaders approach this issue through key concepts of media literacy.

Canada’s Broadcasting Act, last amended in 1991, outlines industry guidelines for portrayal of diversity.

In much the same way that racialized groups are under- or misrepresented in news media, they are also not accurately portrayed in entertainment media, which tends to reinforce themes that are conveyed in the news. Although positive change is occurring, it is important that media content more accurately and fairly reflect the reality of Canadian multiculturalism.

Since before Canada became a Confederation, racially and culturally diverse groups have been creating their own media: the first issue of the Provincial Freeman, which was a weekly newspaper edited and published by Black Canadians in the Province of Canada West (now Ontario), was first published on March 24, 1853.