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Media schools need to bridge quality gap

Media schools need to bridge quality gap

As the media industry grows and evolves, competition and professionalization have been rising, leading to increased pressure for a steady supply of qualified talent.

In fact, we already see the direct implications of the scarcity of quality professionals. The dumbing down of content and the lack of creativity on television has even become the subject of ridicule in films, advertisements and comedy shows. Also, there are ample instances of the harm done to life and property due to irresponsible content.

It’s easy to blame the race for ratings and sometimes this may be justified, but the short supply of analytical, ethical and thinking professionals is a key reason for the poor state of current affairs. But how many people in the industry are concerned about this critical component of their business?

Yes, there are some media houses that have invested in courses and schools. Almost 15% of the media schools in Delhi alone fall in this category. The Capital has 75 media institutes, 30% of which are university-affiliated or government-run. It is estimated that the National Capital Region has double this number. Around 70% of such schools are run privately, often without the benefit of norms.

There is still a wide gap between what is taught at the institutes and what the industry wants from its fresh recruits. A scan of the courses reflects an emphasis on using tools and skills to manage equipment along with the basics of theory. Many courses merely offer technical training with very little focus on the conceptual framework.

Graphic: Ahmed Raza Khan / Mint

There are further constraints because of the insufficient number of trained faculty who can balance actual practice with the application of theory. Even reputed institutes have limited collaboration with the industry that could provide relevant media education or useful research. In fact, there are hardly any institutes providing the required grounding in research and analysis that’s needed to develop critical thinking.

Also Read PN Vasanti’s earlier columns

It’s interesting that even the courses run by media houses do not assure placement of their own students. These institutes are often used as a source of cheap or even free labour by the parent media agency. Most graduates from such media courses end up in smaller and/or regional set-ups. It’s not surprising that most top media professionals come from other streams such as English, political science, economics, etc.

The fascination with the media and the desire to see themselves and/or their name on screen are important reasons for the young people in our country to opt for journalism.

But how have broadcasters and other media stakeholders tapped this interest to nurture thinking professionals who can lead the industry? Should this not be their concern and part of the ongoing dialogue regarding media policies in our country? What role can peer associations such as the Indian Broadcasting Foundation, News Broadcasters Association and the Press Council of India play in setting standards for resource development in this industry?

What are policymakers and academics doing to promote professionals who are capable of satisfying commercial requirements while staying true to the larger purpose that the media serves?

These are important questions for media leaders, educators, policymakers and other stakeholders. Their answers will shape the health of our media industry and society as a whole.

P.N. Vasanti is director of New Delhi-based multidisciplinary research organization Centre for Media Studies (CMS). She also heads the CMS Academy of Communication and Convergence Studies.

Your comments and feedback on this column, which runs every other Friday, are welcome at fineprint@livemint.com

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