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Media Studies Voices

Richard Gent | Tuesday December 06, 2011

Categories: Hot Entries, Understanding Media, Why Media Studies?, The Case for Media Studies

My Media Studies course is under threat. Could you direct me to some supporting evidence about how valuable the skills are that you learn as part of a great Media Studies course?

I could wax lyrical and in fact - have.  But there’s no substitute for other academics, journalists or resected articles that also prove a point or two.  I think all two often decisions makers read the Daily Mail and listen to the Today programme rather than considering the facts: Media Skills serve much more than the radio, print, film and television industries - how about any job or professional that deals with today’s multi media 24/7 digital consumer culture, let alone, the communications and PR sector.

Our headteacher is 100% behind Media and Film and completely believes in the subjects.

I’m not attending our Sixth Form open evening this year, and was concerned that, without any of the Media teachers there, we would fall prey to the negative attitudes of some of our colleagues.

The Association for Media Literacy has waged an ongoing battle for the existence of Media Studies in Ontario for over 30 years.  The Grade 11 course has been threatened at least twice, and it seems that we spent our first 20 years justifying it.  It has become much easier with the increasing ubiquitousness of media messages: 21st century literacy is unthinkable without media literacy.

David Buckingham has also written some cogent justifications for media literacy curriculum in various documents.

Maybe most convincingly, we have argued the fact that good Media Studies courses support non-media things most valued by progressive educators: collaborative skills, research skills, critical thinking skills, and all of the communication skills.  These are qualities highly valued by those arguing for better work skills development in students, but they are also qualities that support good citizenship.

It is a long time since I had to defend Media Studies in a staffroom debate! I thought that the battle was won but of course these things never go away.

One of the first academic books to defend Media was by Cary Bazalgette:

Formations: A 21st Century Media Studies

This piece is good from http://www.mediastudiesstrikesback.org.uk/.

George Courtice should visit the School of Media at Liverpool’s John Moore’s University to look at the courses we are running in conjunction with the media industry in TV and print journalism. The courses are supported by the local industry where students gain work experience during their course and we have evidence to prove the students do get jobs.

I find the best argument is that students want to do it, and there are over 30,000 students studying a degree course with Media in universities. Media Studies includes the whole field of the creative industries which is enormous. Have a look at the Skillset website.

Substitute the words ‘creative industries’ for Media Studies and it suddenly looks a lot more positive, but all these areas can be studied under media.  The creative industries are driving regeneration in many British towns and cities e.g. Bristol, Hull and Sunderland.

Many people want to work in areas like video games, e-media, pop promotion, and music production – Media Studies is invaluable for them as a first degree.

Defining the Creative Industries Skillset looks after twelve sectors:

  • Advertising
  • Animation
  • Computer Games
  • Facilities (which includes post production, studio and equipment hire, special physical effects, outside broadcast, processing laboratories, transmission, manufacture of AV equipment and other services for film and TV)
  • Fashion and Textiles
  • Film
  • Interactive Media
  • Other Content Creation (pop promos, corporate and commercials production)
  • Photo Imaging
  • Publishing (books, journals, magazines, newspapers, directories and databases, news agencies, and electronic information services)
  • Radio
  • Television

I haven’t felt that Media is under threat at my school as it’s so popular and has one of the highest intake of AS students and is one of the most successful at GCSE.  However, I do feel that it is regarded as a ‘second rate’ subject with other subjects being given more priority and kudos.  I was told that some students were advised to take Media as it’s ‘not as academic as certain subjects like English, etc.’. As I am also an A Level English teacher I can state that this is definitely not the case.

Also, it would seem that Media isn’t able to be a subject in it’s own right at my school and it has to come under the English department despite me having to be responsible for results, tracking, targets etc. like all other departments.  Other subjects are free to take students on residentials and workshops during the school year whilst I have to give up my own free time (weekends, after school and holidays).

I don’t know if anyone else has experienced this…

The European Charter for Media Literacy has had a huge impact in EU and Scandinavian countries and demonstrates how other countries take the issue of Media Literacy much more seriously than we do here in the UK. This document was a key component in the Hampshire Media Studies Steering Group’s (successful) bid to visit and report back on how Media Studies was being taught in Canada.

Our A Level course (in its second year) is being axed due to staffing issues.

It has been very successful already and extremely popular - I think the school will regret it when the students vote with their feet and go to college to continue with Media!

All Media is propaganda and extremely powerful propaganda mostly constructed by unelected and unaccountable people.  In order to help people fully understand its seductive appeal and the way it can brainwash many members of the public, this aspect of the media should be a central part of any Media Studies course.  Arguably, it should be a compulsory subject at GCSE.

Look at how Clarkson is idolised and the infantilising effect he has on grown men. Look at the obscene excesses of the tabloid press currently under scrutiny by the Leveson enquiry; such monstrous behaviour has only been possible because of the insatiable appetite of millions of people for salacious, sensationalist stories. A proper response would be to stop buying these publications which lead to them going out of business. We get the media we deserve. Proper education about it might have some beneficial effect. So we need Media Studies. However,  its current form and content leave much to be desired.

What about the boost Media Studies is giving to literacy across the whole school?

I feel that Media and Film Studies are going to be under this kind of pressure even more over the next few years with Michael Gove’s ‘back to the future’ agenda and school and college budgets under pressure.

Most school managers are, above all, interested in bums on seats and the money they represent, so attempting to promote the courses to prospective students is vital. I teach at an 11-18 school and, like other sixth forms and colleges we have an open evening: printing off the full UCAS list of Media and Film courses was eloquent proof that, notwithstanding the prejudice of the soi disant elite universities, there are a great many higher education possibilities for students in these areas and what better preparation than doing an A Level in one or both subjects? Being 11-18 also gives those who teach the courses - almost all of us are English teachers - the chance to explain and promote them with our Year 11 students; corridor displays also help the subjects’ profiles. If students are demanding to do Film and Media and indicating they will go elsewhere if necessary, this may help convince school managers.

The argument of power, manipulation and propaganda usually silences the more innocent; the business link to a rich and broad range of employment prospects usually secures its importance.

This age old argument is very simple to answer:

The skill set Media Studies students gain is broader than many academic subjects (production, skills of analysis, communication, ICT, research, working with others….)

The subject is grounded in contemporary representation which gives an immediate frame of reference to current socio-political developments.

Media Studies gives students a broad base on which to hone their skills in industry - most Media Studies courses develop students’ abilities in using professional, industry standard hardware and software - MACs, Photoshop, Final Cut Pro… Students complete their course with competent skills in print, audio and video production.

The subject allows students to ultimately specialise in a range of specialist HE courses ranging form Journalism to Film Production to Cultural Studies to Digital Media Arts…

Perhaps most importantly students are given the skills to question one of the most powerful and influential industries on the planet, both ideologically and commercially… A Media Studies student is taught to be an autonomous, independent learner as well as having the ability to work to deadlines as part of a team.

Learning in Media (and the Arts) assists and informs learning in general.

My response to these types of questions is always to challenge the whole premise of judging the value of education based on test scores or job opportunities. We are in such desperate times that what we need most is not more people doing the same thing, but fiercely critical citizens who can think independently about the ways our actions are connected with effects happening across the globe. Critical media literacy is about real representative democracy that is based on citizens being able to see beyond the hype and lies with the ability to use media to challenge the oppressive structures that are leading countries to economic collapse, our planet to ecological disaster and millions of people to the brink of survival. I don’t think there is much that is more important than that.

As I see it, it’s not just Media Studies but all courses which are not part of the government’s English Baccalaureate measure of success. If you speak to Music, ICT, DT and Business Studies teachers in high schools I’m pretty sure that the general consensus would be that, “We’re all doomed!”

Certainly if I look at my present Y10 classes, I have a number of very able students who are being held back by the antics and lack of wider knowledge of others. As a result, I suspect that I have one year of A Level left from this year’s Year 11, with little hope from the present Year 10.

This is entirely due to headteachers and their senior colleagues who, in fear of failing this new E Bacc measurement hoop, have restricted option choices to both their mainstream and more able students, so that students are now not allowed such a wide choice of option subjects. They have to follow the “academic” subjects.

As I see it, one of the most important assets of Media Studies is the need to know “stuff”. We need our students to be aware of a wide range of issues which influence our reception and perceptions of the World, usually supplied by the Media. It is that which sets us aside. Let’s be honest, much of what they do could be seen to cover the same ground but usually in terms of output, not analysis and knowledge.

We need a Non E Bacc campaign to raise awareness of the importance of our “easy” subjects. I notice the unions appear to be wringing hands but little else. 

We need a Media savvy, Musically talented, ICT literate, DT capable young population for the future of our country in 2011 but whilst schools are forced to believe that the E Bacc is the current answer to the measurement of educational standards, we are in trouble.

I have found displays helpful in combating the outdated prejudice that surrounds this essential subject. 

In meetings, I have found it very useful to ask ‘How did you decide who to vote for..? Through what channels did you receive your information?’  Now tell me again that the media is not important.

We have a similar problem in that our numbers at AS Media have dropped considerably this year for the first time in many years. We are doing the OCR Diploma as well as A Levels but this has not grown much over the three years that it has run so we are looking into starting the BTEC as it has much broader recognition. We are also planning to go into local schools a bit more to promote the courses. Film has pretty much stayed the same at two groups perhaps because it is often taken up due to a passion for film or as a fourth subject. Also at open evenings we try to promote the many skills that are developed by taking up the subject.