Culture minister Tessa Jowell has said Britons need lessons in understanding television so they can differentiate between "opinion and fact".
Jowell said viewer awareness would lessen the need for regulation
She compared awareness of modern media to "understanding great literature" and said she wanted a "nation of active and informed consumers".
Jowell was speaking ahead of a Bafta conference on "media literacy" next week, organised with the BBC.
She said if people were more aware it would "lessen the need for regulation".
The minister said it would be important to know when we are watching "accurate and impartial" news coverage and when we are not.
"We also need to make sure people are equipped to protect themselves and their families from material which they would find harmful and distasteful," she said.
"Everyone needs to be able to decode the way the media works, questioning everything in order to understand everything," added Jowell.
Taste and decency
The new broadcast regulator Ofcom was handed the task of overseeing taste and decency on TV and radio, as well as promoting "media literacy" among ordinary viewers.
But secretary of state Jowell said that broadcasters should play their part in this education, in a media world which is becoming increasingly hard to govern.
"Ofcom cannot do this alone - all parts of our communication industries need to play their part," she said.
One of Ofcom's many jobs is to make viewers more media aware
She also urged the average viewer to take "a greater personal responsibility" for what they watch and listen to.
"Super regulator" Ofcom started operating at the end of 2003, and covers a wide brief.
The new body made a promise to be "transparent" about its investigations and findings.
It replaced a clutch of regulatory bodies including the Broadcasting Standards Commission (BSC) and the Independent Television Commission (ITC).
In January, it was called in to investigate the sleep deprivation show Shattered after viewers complained that it endangered the health of participants.