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Communication Education and Media Needs in India
A study conducted by AMIC India
2002, AMIC India (firstname.lastname@example.org), Chennai
Review by Madanmohan Rao (email@example.com)
How well are Indian communications and journalism departments equipped to teach new courses in fields like online journalism? How can the media industry and the education sector in India cooperate to meet the needs of students and media organizations? What should their long-term and short-term strategies be, and how is this affected by the increasing commercialization and digitalization of media?
These are important questions for media education academics and policymakers in India, and their answers will shape the health of our media sector and society as a whole.
This informative study published by the Asian Media Information and Communication Centre of India addresses many of these issues, based on a systematic survey of 77 media organizations and 35 communication/journalism training institutes conducted in 2001.
The media in India need multi-skilled people with an understanding of the nature of information and well-versed in the new communication technologies, and society as a whole needs more skilled people in media production as well as critical thinking in relation to new ICTs across the economy. This calls for a curriculum with a mix of practical media production (including Internet publishing), media effects, political economy, cultural studies, and suitable internships.
Given the uneven pattern of economic development in the country, India's media scenario across traditional and new media can be characterized as "poverty amidst plenty."
Indian dailies enjoy a daily circulation of 13 crore copies, of which a lion's share is accounted for by 200 big dailies. The 350 main newspapers employ a total of about 5,000 reporters, 2,000 fulltime correspondents, 5,000 stringers and 5,000 editorial staff. All India Radio employs 24,000 people including 4,500 in news production. Doordarshan has 19,000 employees of which about 4,000 are in production and news. All the other private networks (such as Sun, Eenadu, Zee, ATN, Sony, AsiaNet) employ about 1,700 people with only about 500 in direct production and news (outsourcing is a common practice).
The advertising industry in India is worth Rs. 7,000 crores a year. 55 per cent of India's ad spend is devoted to the print media. The major ad agencies employ 3,000 professionals in all.
On the technology front, new ICT innovations have transformed industries like newspaper publishing, but many media departments' curricula are lagging on this front. And those which do have good media labs face other challenges in servicing and maintenance facilities.
The induction of new technology like computers and the Internet in the media sector suggests that familiarity and working knowledge of related ICT skills should be part of any curriculum in the training institutions, according to the report.
Indian media education institutes cover a wide range of university and non-university entities, such as Indian Institute of Mass Communication, Indian Institute of Journalism and New Media, Manipal Institute of Communication, Kerala Press Academy, FTII, Ad Club Chennai, Public Relations Society of India, Bangalore University, Sophia Polytechnic, Xavier Institute of Communication, MICA, and Symbiosis Institute of Mass Communication, to name just a few.
The comprehensive surveys indicated that many educators feel their role is not necessarily to meet the manpower needs of the industry, but to meet broader holistic social goals and non-media roles as well. Many industry representatives seem to feel that media education should not follow guidance from the government, but take inputs from the industry; the program should be geared towards entry-level jobs in the industry.
The survey also revealed a growing importance placed on students' competency in English, interpersonal skills, and fact-checking. The kinds of Internet skills needed include hypertext publishing, graphic design, and cyberlaws. Other skillsets covered in the survey include storyboarding, editing, social psychology, rural marketing, crisis communication, and broadcast technologies.
"Despite the IT bubble burst, new media and associated technologies are still relevant and the journalism and mass communications institutions should keep this in mind," the report recommends.
"The nature of the course content should recognize that news is now broken on the Net first and delivered through a variety of media including mobile phones. Convergence of media has happened and accordingly the orientation of instruction should change," according to the report.
Much more needs to be done to get alumni more involved in media capacity issues. Curricula need to be updated more frequently. Umbrella organizations like AMIC India can play a greater role via e-forums in exchanging curriculum and other resources between media educational institutes in India.
Students need to be imbued with a mix of skills, passion, professionalism and creativity in old and new media, in terms of developing a "news sense." Emphasis should be laid on connecting communications media with people, and not getting distracted by elitist concerns.
The report also recommends the setting up of a National Media Council which can act as an accreditation agency to ensure standards in media teaching and training.
Other issues which future studies could address include the rapid proliferation of wireless media and their impact on news and community formation, inculcating a sense of social responsibility, mid-career refresher programs, competing against a preoccupation with entertainment and commercialized media, issues surrounding legal and privacy considerations, partnerships with business schools (on topics like e-commerce), increasing media capacity programs in Indian languages, status of library facilities, community empowerment, the digital divide, and the FM radio boom.
Madanmohan Rao is the author of "The Asia-Pacific Internet Handbook" and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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