MxM Mondays 2 | What ails media education?

06 Aug,2012

 

By Shruti Pushkarna

 

The boom in the Indian media in the last two decades has also seen a steady rise in supply and demand of trained manpower. Consequently private and government-aided institutes have mushroomed across the country offering degree and diploma programmes in media. While students want to quickly acquire all the tools required to get themselves that dream job, the employers wants entry-level professionals who don’t require to be trained in the basics.

 

However, one keeps hearing murmurs of discontent – from students as well as recruiters. One of the primary peeves is that while there is a fair amount of theoretical knowledge, pass-outs aren’t equipped to face the world on Day 1 of their jobs.

 

So for Week #2 of MxM Mondays, we are focusing on media education and why it isn’t able to achieve what it ought to.

 

MxM Mondays is a forum where MxM correspondents reach out to a cross-section of the industry on issues that concern us all. Although we had scheduled a discussion on the issue of television measurement and TAM for today, given recent developments, we have put off that discussion for the moment.

 

Let’s read what a cross-section of the fraternity told us when we asked them about the state of media education:

 

Only a practitioner can teach the practice best

Satyakki Bhattacharjee, Vice President-Human Resources, ABP News

Poor availability of ready resources has been a big overhang for the media sector, particularly for the television media.  Though, the demand pull from the sector is not high as of now, because of exigencies in the business environment, even when it was strong, the kind of outputs that media institutes deliver, is far sub-standard than what is actually required at the newsroom.

 

And so, inside the newsroom as well as at the corporate floor, editorial and corporate executives are consciously working to codify its winning formula – essentially institutionalizing a home grown grooming strategy.  That of ‘Acquiring Raw & Polishing Flaw’ – even as the need for a ready expert hand does perennially existing, nonetheless.

 

Media education has either become too archaic to be relevant for modern time newsrooms or has remained just skin-deep to have a significant impact on the industry.  Whereas the classical ones are a shade better than the one which has mushroomed roadside, all of them need to re-invent themselves in terms of relevance and rigor of curriculum.  It would be prudent for them to answer whether they are injecting few quick-fix skills or they are serving the Fourth Estate by building future durable competence.

 

True media education (read Journalism of any nature and Broadcasting) is not about theory.  It’s about practice and application.  Current modules lack application orientation and are restrictive when it comes to broad experiential learning.

 

As essential as the application, the conceptual side too has become weak and lacks depth in the context of the contemporary dynamic electronic info-media age that we are in.  For example, besides being trained at covering a Jantar-Mantar fast, do I know the history of fasting revolutions in this country and, if at all, who was the first person to die in a protest fast?  That’s my reference to depth. To generate depth, rigor in academic curriculum is essential.

 

The archival slumber into which the media institutions are getting into deeper and deeper can be shaken upon by injecting regular doses of high weightage inputs given regularly by industry professionals.  It’s a practitioner only who can teach the practice best, and can best train the budding journo on the nuances of the profession, the environment for which is set to become only more turbulent and tempting.

 

Most agencies want the easy option of well-trained people

Nandini Dias, COO, Lodestar Universal

The industry has been facing an acute shortage of talent.  There is far more demand than the supply. Most agencies want the easy option of well trained people. Draft FCB group every year recruits at least 30-35 freshers from the campuses. We run a very stringent training programme called Star One. We have been running Star One for over 20 years now. In fact some of our best people have come from the Star One programme.

 

The business schools or media colleges do train them well. Needless to say even after going through the Master’s programmes they need to be trained further. A Master’s degree equips students with principles and past case studies. But I don’t think any business or media school trains you perfectly for that industry. The youngsters come with knowledge of the principles. The application part of it is obviously something which the schools don’t train them for and that’s understandable.

 

I guess to an extent it would help if students are more well-versed with the industry packages…

 

The media business has got so diluted in terms of its requirements that almost anybody can get absorbed today

Dilip Cherian, Consulting Partner, Perfect Relations

Media education in the country is very poor and I think there’s been a lack of independent organizations doing quality teaching. What I mean is that you’ve a bunch of people who are running institutions who are media organizations and they hire and get their own people largely through their own system. But I don’t think we have enough independent organizations which are not affiliated to any one organization. And that is one of the drawbacks I see.

 

The other problem that I see is that the kind of private (non-affiliated) institutes are probably just churning them out with no sense of quality of the kind of people they are turning out. The media business has got so diluted in terms of its requirements that almost anybody can get absorbed today.

 

The institutes are concerned about showing an extensive curriculum but the extensive curriculum doesn’t include the elements which are needed for playing a good media role. The kids get out knowing some of the words but they don’t know its meaning. I think it’s also a matter of the initial catchment, of what kind of students you are recruiting, and also what kind of teachers are there to teach them. Many of the students that are recruited can’t actually get a job in media but they manage to get in the institute and then they end up in the media.

 

The argument is often made that you don’t need to be a judge to produce a lawyer, or that you don’t need to be a great doctor to be able to teach at an MBBS institute but I think in media you need people who have hands-on experience of media to actually teach what happens in the media.

 

Three things that media institutes need to pay attention to: First, the quality of input. Second, continuous testing at each stage is important. Third, the ability to produce either copy or programming that can actually go on air.

 

Broadcast journalism cannot be taught by professors who’ve had little to do with what happens in a TV newsroom

Mahrukh Inayet, Director, Studio Talk Anchoring Workshops and Former Senior Editor, Times Now

I personally think what ails media education in the country is a massive paucity of academic staff that is able to bridge the gap between theoretical and hands on knowledge. Broadcast journalism for one cannot be taught by professors who have had little to do with what actually happens in a television newsroom. While the essentials of journalism remain the same in print and broadcast, the treatment is not the same. Words cannot substitute pictures and the other way round. Unfortunately journalism schools in our country seem to forget this crucial difference. Moreover, the curriculum is not in line with the evolution of news and how it is covered in the real world. I feel that while our news channels or magazines/newspapers have understood and developed dynamic ways of gathering and disseminating news – our colleges that teach various forms of journalism are stuck in a time warp oblivious of real-time challenges.

 

 

Every industry probably takes about 2-3 decades before you have a robust backend built by industry people

Avinash Kaul, CEO, Times Now, ET Now and Zoom

I think there is a substantial gap because as media has evolved extremely rapidly, academics really hasn’t taken as great a speed in trying to cope with the demand.

 

In less than 10 years, there’s been an explosion of television channels and it’s the same for radio, magazines etc. It’s been a substantial spurt but at the same time the academic output hasn’t really scaled up so dramatically. So it creates a mismatch between quantity of output as well the quality of output. Since the industry is dynamic, a lot of changes happen almost every day. Academics are a little bit removed from that, so they don’t catch up significantly with what’s going on in the industry.

 

There is a lot more to be done beyond just audience measurement works, there are around 15 disciplines within broadcast which you might want to get exposed to and get an in-depth understanding of. But unfortunately from the industry’s side, since it has grown so fast, the systems within haven’t really evolved in a scientific fashion. The upgrades happen so rapidly that even the professionals working within the industry are barely able to catch up. So nobody actually from the practitioning world has had the time to sit down and put these things in a particular framework which then can be used by the academia to get its syllabi in place.

 

The Media in India is still very young. If you were to look at the people managing any of the business in television, since TV is not more than a decade old, any of the top end people in TV probably have not had formal education in broadcast. If I look at myself, I am an engineer and then a general marketing MBA. In my entire academic life I might have just spent about a couple of classes on media specifically. So formally there was nothing, unlike developed countries where there is a formal body of work behind the people in the business. I guess as time goes by, when this current crop of leaders decide to hang their boots and they reinvest their time in rebuilding academia, things will change. So I guess the cycle happens but for every industry it probably takes about two or three decades before you have a robust backend built by industry people.

 

The people who teach out there have to themselves get exposed… it’s like saying, ‘train the trainer

Abdul Khan, Senior Vice President and National Head- Marketing, Tata Teleservices Ltd

For sure there is a qualitative gap in the demand and supply chain of media industry. People who are coming into the industry are familiar with concepts but their ability to implement those concepts in a meaningful way in the context of today’s economy, is a big thing which needs some correction.

 

Actual ground level practical training of working smartly and implementing things is missing from modules in media schools. The other thing which is missing is an adequate handle on the tools of digital media. And a third thing that is missing is the whole concept of return on media investment.

 

The people who teach out there have to themselves get exposed, it’s like saying, ‘train the trainer’. So the lecturer at the media school has to be exposed to the current media practices.

 

I was involved in setting up of MICA  and from Day 1 we felt that it won’t just be about client servicing or account planning, we felt that media deserves equal prominence along with research. We ensured the same from Day 1 and that continues till date.

 

My suggestion (to media institutes) is four-fold:

One is that the people who are teaching at media schools who are not active media practitioners should in an organized way get exposure to our active practitioners.

Two, there has to be a much more practical sort of experience imparted.

Three, there have to be better quality standards, both for students and for other people out there because they are playing with someone’s money.

And Four, there has to be an appreciation of digital and creative media.

And lastly, our insitutes need to teach students about return on media investments.

 

You need a huge degree of industry exposure to make the learning practical, industry-ready and current

Chandradeep Mitra, CEO, PipalMajik

Prima facie there is a gap (between the demand of the industry and supply from media schools) both from the industry’s side and from the academics’ side. I don’t think there has been enough effort to bridge the gap till now. I used to head a media agency and we used to have a terrible dearth of qualified talent. In the case of media, you need a lot more specialized knowledge and ability to handle specialized media software, like IRS, TAM etc. MICA has a media specialization and they’ve been doing their best but there aren’t too many others of the kind. Apart from MICA and SIMC, I don’t think there is any specialized MBA for media in India which is of an industry-ready standard.

 

You need a huge degree of industry exposure to make the learning practical, industry ready and current. So the knowledge doesn’t need to be very theoretical, it needs to be much more practical. Also, I think you need a lot more exposure to the industry itself which means people from the industry need to come in and either teach or give industry projects. For instance, if you are doing a media MBA, you need to have software like IRS and TAM installed in all machines in the institute and I don’t know too many institutes that are doing that. If you don’t have that, I think you aren’t really teaching students to be ready for the industry. So it’s important to impart practical knowledge, expose students to the industry and provide them with current updated media software.

 

The pace of change is so high that books and programmes designed even a year ago are out of date today
 

Anil Thakraney, former editor and adperson, columnist and Editor-at-large, MxMIndia

I never went to a media school, so I have no idea what goes on there in terms of relevant training. But I have been a guest lecturer on occasion at a few institutes, and I have to say I did not find the students very enthusiastic. I don’t really know what the problem is, maybe they aren’t interested in the profession, and are doing the course for kicks. Or perhaps they believe they already know it all.

 

However, I did my MBA and found the quality of the faculty to be pathetic. The teachers were totally disconnected from the real world, they were dated in their knowledge, and the entire focus was on theoretical education. I wasted two precious years of my life out there.

 

And I strongly suspect that’s the case with the media schools as well. So, the only solution is for chief editors, programming heads and marketing chiefs to take some time out from their busy sceds and dedicate it to education. And I wonder how many want to do that. Ask the likes of Arnab Goswami, Rajdeep Sardesai, Jaideep Bose, Shekhar Gupta, Uday Shankar, etc, how many hours they spent at the institutes in the last one year. And you’ll have your answers.

 

Given all that, the industry has no right to complain about the poor quality of media grads.

______________________________

 

Mediaah!/Pradyuman Maheshwari, Editor-in-Chief, MxMIndia

In many ways, what plagues media education in the country also holds true for other specialized education sectors. But the problem is that most pass-outs aren’t are plug-and-play. In fact far from it. Given the steady growth of the media and entertainment sector, it was natural to see the mushrooming of educational schools across the country. Since education affords an opportunity to make easy monies, we’ve had several fly-by-night operators who enrol students, especially from the hinterland.

 

The problems start with the poor entry barriers. As the focus is always returns of the promoter’s investments, many institutes don’t care too much about faculty and facilities. Having hired and mentored over a few hundred entry-level students right out of m-schools, I can say with a fair deal of confidence that save a dozen-odd institutes in the country, it’s a hit-and-miss at most media schools.

 

The problem is grave with journalism, but even in other media disciplines, life doesn’t get any better.

 

Personally, if I am required to hire a journalist, I would prefer a postgrad in a subject that will equip him or her with domain knowledge for the job on hand.  In fact some of my brightest recruits and who have done fairly well in their careers have been fresh out of college and a basic bachelor’s degree.

 

In fact, I would advise any anyone interested in journalism to avoid the formal two-year courses. The post-Class 12 Bachelor in Mass Media or Media Studies is pointless and even English Literature is a better major at the Bachelor’s level than a BMM or BMS. A 10-month or one-year intensive course is fine to hone skills, but it isn’t really necessary as the skills can be acquired on the job. What’s critical is a flair for presentation of information, whatever be the medium.

 

Would the same hold true for creative professionals elsewhere? Well, not necessarily, but it’s vital to select the media school with care. For those aspiring to be in the business of media, I would advise a general MBA if they don’t get into a specialized marketing degree at a MICA or Symbiosis (and a couple of others).

 

It’s important that the industry and media schools work together on the syllabus if they want the education to be meaningful. This business is all about people and what they bring to the table. Poor talent will have an impact on the quality of work produced. The Sectoral Innovation Council recommendations include a mention on standards in media education.

 

While the big boys in broadcast and print media have been able to fight the regulators, I’m not sure the educationwallahs will be able to do that.

 

Mahesh Murthy, Founder, Pinstorm

The primary issue with education is that it is based on older, codified knowledge. So Kotler’s Marketing survived for a while as a textbook as it was generic and as it was written in the late 1950s. Kotler’s text on traditional marketing survived for decades but is woefully outdated in the 21st century. But education on digital media has fared much worse – the pace of change is so high that books and programs designed even one year ago are out of date today. The nature of marketing using social media like Facebook has changed, as has the nature of SEO because of Google”s Penguin and Panda updates. I would find it hard to imagine how structured education like books and third-party firms can keep up to date with this incredibly fast change. This is now a practitioners game and not an educators game. The best bet is for a practising company to have internal training programmes. At Pinstorm for instance we have one every week. On the selection front we dont really believe any formal education now can prepare you for the world of digital media. Your BMM or your BMS or you Communications degree or your MBA are so woefully behind the times that we have no option but to completely disrespect their efficacy. We instead give candidates our own aptitude tests and train them on the job. We believe the issue will get even more chronic in the years to come.

 

 

There is a general downtrend and lack of optimism in the growth of media

NP Singh, Director, Express Institute of Media Studies

I think supply is in excess of demand. I think media is tending to restrict its demand and cutting down on its number of employees. And that’s what is causing a little squeeze in the marketplace which has led to young people being worried about their prospects in media. I think media is tending to do this because media’s own prospects in this economy are looking uncertain. As a result, the intake of media schools is becoming smaller. For example, Times School which used to take around 60 students and guarantee all of them jobs, now their input is less than 25 and they are not guaranteeing jobs. And you are not necessarily getting the best people, they used to get much brighter students three or four years ago.

 

Now suddenly the level of people you are getting in media schools is not as bright. I can’t say that about ACJ which is undoubtedly the best media school, at least for print and broadcast. And notes that I have compared with Headlines Today and NDTV which run their own schools is the same. The number of students who are applying are less and the number of students they are taking is fewer because the opportunities they have to offer are less.

 

That’s as far as numbers go. In terms of quality, there is no absence of skill, there has been no change on that front. Look at regional press for example, there are no well-known schools of journalism which are churning out journalists for the regional press. And the regional press is much the bigger segment of the Indian market. Jagran, Bhaskar and Amar Ujala are by far the biggest papers in this country, compared to the Times of India, Hindustan Times, Indian Express or The Hindu. They are not getting trained journalists, they don’t insist on recruiting people with a journalism degree. They are taking people from the open market and training them. And I haven’t heard any of these regional papers complain that they are not getting good enough people.

 

Media seems to think that people who come from a journalism school don’t necessarily have such a high skill set that they can be paid so much higher. It is true though, that people who come from journalism schools get much higher salaries compared to people coming from the open market.

 

I think the problem is that there is a general downtrend and lack of optimism in the growth of media. Basic principles of journalism are editing, reporting and page making and then, understanding the ethics of the business within which you have to operate. You begin to acquire domain knowledge after you start working, you don’t bring it to the table before you start working.

 

When we set up the Express Institute of Media, we refused to hire professional lecturers from outside. Our faculty members are all our senior most editorial people. So our students can take up a job the day they finish because they are trained to do that.

 

Unfortunately, many of the full-time faculty members are failed professionals

Achyut Vaze, Dean, FLAME School of Communication, Pune and well-known Marathi TV and theatreperson

People talk about the talent crunch and that there is not sufficient talent but the industry seems a bit unclear as to what kind of training do they want to give to the potential people. Currently, people who have gained some generalized education are being picked up and being given some sort of training in a very ad hoc way on the job. While on-the-job training is very important but there is a clear need for a proper systematic training for all media. It’s not just confined to journalism but also film, television, new media, broadcast and all other various sectors. You need formal training for all these sectors and that is nearly absent in this country. What the existing schools are offering is in extremely limited capacity and limited scope of their training. Today we require people not only trained in their own craft but also with a dimension of management. Without the fundamentals of management, training in film, television, advertising or journalism is not good enough. This is an alien concept to this country except for one or two schools which are an exception.

 

Unfortunately in this country, many of the full-time faculty members are failed professionals, they don’t have either the capacity or the interest left in them to give adequate attention and time for training. We require a mix of full-time professors and a large number of industry professionals coming in and interacting with students, as visiting faculty.

 

The industry needs to understand the importance of proper training in media. They must understand the importance of training with a dimension of management coupled with an exposure to all other sciences, like philosophy, humanities and psychology.

 

Sathyamurthy Namakkal

Sathyamurthy Namakkal, President & Head-DDB MudraMax Media

a) Students should be coached to work on “real time live cases” and not necessarily only on “historic case studies”. This will enable the students to think, ideate and come up with radically different recommendations pertaining to different business challenges.

 

b) Institutes should encourage students to undertake market visits, dialogue with customers – to ensure that they have a grasp of the nuances at the market place.

 

Next Week on MxM Mondays
 

The theme for next weeks’s MxM Mondays is ‘Why do marketers still not spend enough on digital?’

 

While marketing spends may be shifting to the digital media globally, in India, television and print still rule. Is it because digital still doesn’t reach the masses, and homemakers in particular? Or is that the bucks (hence commissions) are still big in TVCs? MxMIndia will speak to a cross-section of the people who matter and bring you MxM Mondays #3. If you would like to share your views, mail us at editor@mxmindia.com with ‘MxM Mondays #3’ in the subject line.

 

 

 

Post a Comment 

4 responses to “MxM Mondays 2 | What ails media education?”

  1. Utpal Bordoloi says:

    None of these chaps can write proper English – just analyse their syntax, grammar, punctuation and spelling. And they are pontificating on ‘ what ails media education ! “

  2. Rohit Bansal says:

    lovely piece. deserves wide circulation. best

  3. Rohit Bansal says:

    lovely piece. benefitted. tc

  4. mamta2k10 says:

    thanks for sharing……….nice writing