Media Studies: Communication, Media and Culture

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Introduction

Media studies have been treated with a lot of contempt not only in Britain but the world over. This may be a problem inherent in the conduct of the media industry while carrying out their duties. Despite its important role in the society, people just don’t understand how one can enroll in the University for a Media Degree.

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As it has been argued by Beckett (2006, par.4), other degrees are more preferable when compared to the media degree not only by students, but some media personalities as well.

Discussion

The contempt that the communication industry has earned over the years cannot be blamed on anyone else, but the media industry. The notion that the communication, media and culture are “lightweight” is very true to some extent.

One of the reasons is because communication as taught in class becomes a totally different concept altogether in the field. Classes tend to be more of theories while the real media is full of practical. For example if one is taught interviewing skills in class but no practical lessons are conducted, the theory becomes obsolete like any other (Gorman & McLean 2003, p. 45). Editing skills of a program or news require continual practice for one to attain perfection. However this is not the case with many communication colleges. Students attend classes with no practice. Within no time all the learned courses are forgotten or distorted altogether.

Secondly, the media industry is totally dependent on technology. As a result continual refresher of most courses is important. On the other hand, during the period between graduation and securing a job, the technology that was learned in college may have become obsolete. As a result adapting to the new technology becomes a challenge. With the proliferation of technology, the media industry is undergoing perennial changes which pose a great challenge to media professionals.

In addition, fitting in the contemporary media industry requires more talent than academic qualifications. As a result, this leads to frustration for those graduates who lack jobs. As a matter of fact most contemporary media personalities are not media graduates. Apart from talent, some personality traits are vital for one to fit in the media industry. For example, to succeed in the radio category, a good voice is of paramount importance. The case is the same for television, a good voice and complementary looks blend in together to ensure successful media personalities. The case is not different in the print media category. Writing skills are developed from kindergarten and become part of a person’s life. Thus if a person studies media with the hope of getting a job in the media industry while their writing skills are not up to standard, they end up being frustrated due to the perennial rejection they experience from the various media houses.

Further, communication and media studies being in the social science category do not appeal to the all-serious segment of the society. This category believes in the science courses and disregards any success in the arts and social sciences. This is more or less the comment made by the director of admissions at the Cambridge University, Dr. Geoff Parks (Beckett 2006, par.3). According to him media studies was not a course worth investing in. He further felt that Cambridge was an institution meant for many serious courses.

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This negative attitude towards communication and media studies is carried by some media personalities. According to the editor of London Evening Standard, Veronica Wadley, she prefers recruiting people with different degrees such as law or language as opposed to media studies (Beckett 2006, par.8).The same sentiments are echoed by the National Council for the Training of Journalists who believe that any degree is eligible for employment in the media industry.

However, upon attaining a degree in a certain field, the graduate looks forward to practicing in their field of profession. When this is not forthcoming, frustration sets in. In addition, the communication and media degree is treated as so basic in other fields thus making it difficult to get employment in any other professional industry. For instance, a medical doctor can quit their profession and make successful journalists but rarely the other way round. To become a professional doctor one must have graduated with a degree in medicine. However differing statistics indicate that of all the courses media studies are oversubscribed by most students (Smithers 2005, par. 1)

Perhaps, the major problem facing the media industry is the increase in employment of non-media graduates. Based on the fact that they have not specialized in media, their media ethical standards tend to be low thus casting a dark shadow on the profession. This is especially the case with the proliferation of technology which has enabled every Tom, Dick and Harry to declare themselves as the media gurus. The case has been made worse by the liberalization of the media industry. The change in ownership policies in most countries has seen an increase in the opening of FM stations. According to many opponents of media studies, these FM media houses have displayed lack of professionalism as well as demean the ethical principles of the industry. Issues that are discussed in these stations are way under the expected standards. It is such cases that portray the media industry as such an unworthy course compared to the more streamlined professions such as Law or Medicine.

Nonetheless, despite the above shortcomings of the communication and media industry, its immense contribution to the society cannot be overlooked. Since time immemorial, it has been the main dispenser of information. Even before the age of industrialization when technology proliferated, the society utilized some traditional forms of media to pass on information.

Though the media industry as a career has been demonized by various scholars, perhaps its inclusion in the school curriculum, would come in handy in exerting its great power in the society. According to numerous psychological studies carried out, children acquire a lot of their knowledge from their daily interaction with the media (Buckingham 1990, p.55).

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The media studies involve, writing, communication, listening and other interpersonal skills that are integral for career success in any field (Alvarado 1987, p.123). Thus, if incorporated as part of the curriculum our children are bound to develop these fundamental skills at an early age.

As clearly stated by Gorman and colleagues (2003, p.67), our children need these media studies to improve their thinking capacity about issues affecting them daily. As an important informational tool it is imperative that the most raging debate currently involving global warming can only be understood by children who have been exposed to the media studies and at least trained on information interpretation. Media studies are not only important in improving the communication abilities of children but also in upgrading their critical thinking ability. Children who have been exposed to the media from an early age tend to be more knowledgeable and positively critical when discussing issues of global interest with their peers. In most developing countries, urban children who are mostly exposed to media as compared to their rural counterparts tend to be brighter and knowledgeable than the rural children.

Media studies play an empowering and liberating role, equipping our children with the knowledge required for political responsiveness and democratic citizenship (Kubey 2001, p.15). This is achieved by teaching our children the applicable methods of interpreting the mechanisms, structures and messages relayed by the mass media. The cultural experience imparted in our children by the media is so immense, more than the parents would hope to pass on. This is because of the rich historical perspective that the media industry is based on.

Due to its critical role in entertainment, children seem to spend most of their time interacting with the media. This may be through watching television, listening to the radio or even indulging in reading exercises of newspapers and magazines alike. As such, children tend to spend most of their time interacting with one media form or the other (Bazalgette 1990, p.78). In a bid to clearly understand and internalize some of the high-value information presented in the form of entertainment, our children need to have a basis in media studies. Most of the important issues affecting the society are presented satirically as forms of entertainment. However the figurative meanings of these pieces are very important (Buckingham 1990, p.187).

Despite the opposing ideas of most education scholars about the inconsequential influence of the media in the society, researchers have proved otherwise. Alvarado (1987, p. 89) clearly asserts that young children do most of their learning through self-discovery enabled by the media. Though there has been a loud public outcry on the negative influence of the media on our children, a few isolated cases of irresponsible reporting and airing of programs cannot be used to cast doubts on the strength of the media as a developmental tool. As a matter of fact, the inclusion of media studies will dilute the negative effect of the media as our children will be in a position to make enlightened decisions regarding some of these programs (Kubey 2001, p.84).

The agenda-setting theory of the media asserts its strong influence on public opinion in regard to important national issues. However, it is not always right to assume that the media is right such that we form our opinions based on theirs. On the other hand, people who have some basis of media studies find themselves at a better position to refute some of the claims put forward by the media. This is especially so in the 21st century, whereby the proliferation of technology and globalization has enabled the mushrooming of some unethical media practices. A good example is the role played by Radio Rwanda in the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Supposedly, Media studies were compulsory in the education curriculum of Rwanda, the Hutu community would have been in a position to decline the call made by this radio station and other forms of media to kill their Tutsi brothers. Nonetheless, due to the media illiteracy, the Hutus did not question the wisdom behind this call and as fate would have it, hundreds of thousands of Tutsi and Hutu moderates were killed in a span of three months.

Conclusion

In as much as the media industry has been linked to the cultural and moral decline of the society, its positive effect and immense role in the society cannot be ignored. In addition, if media studies were entrenched as a compulsory subject in the contemporary education curriculum, some of the negative effects experienced since the explosion of the industry can be reduced. Unlike radio and print media, television is the most demonized medium in regard to the negative effects of the media.

However as a professional course, Communication, Media and Culture studies rank low among most people. This has been due to a number of avoidable contributory reasons. One of the reasons is the lack of employment for media graduates. Though this is a phenomenon that has rocked most industries currently, the media industry is largely affected due to the attitudes held by some of the media personalities. Unlike some professions such as law, engineering or medicine which employ graduates in these fields only, the media industry admits anyone and everyone who can express themselves in English or any other desired language. Not giving priority to media graduates leads to frustration when they cannot secure jobs in any other industry. Moreover, the proliferation of technology has made it difficult for most media graduates to keep up with the pace of development thus losing out in the market. This uncertainty of employment has made the subject a dislike of most students.

Reference

Alvarado, M., 1987, Learning the media: an introduction to media teaching. Basingstoke: Macmillan publishers.

Bazalgette, C., 1990, Media Education. London: Hodder & Stoughton.

Beckett, F., 2006, Media studies? I’d prefer a law degree. Web.

Buckingham, D., 1990, Watching media learning: making sense of media education. London: Falmer.

Gorman, L. & McLean, D., 2003, Media and society in the twentieth century: a historical introduction. MA: Blackwell Publishing Company.

Kubey R., 2001, Media literacy in the information age: current perspectives. New Brunswick: Transaction publishers.

Smithers, R., 2005, Students happier with traditional academic courses. Web.

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