Tuesday, June 05, 2012

New dimensions in Mass Communication

National Media Summit 2012:
May 24 and 25 were a 'red letter day' for Kelaniya University's Mass Communication Department. They organised the second National Media Summit. Mass media teachers, planners and researchers took part in this occasion.
Teachers from various Mass Communication departments and academic units were invited to contribute their opinions at this summit. Mass Communication Department co-hosted the summit with Information and Media Ministry, Education Ministry and Sri Lanka Press Council.

Round-table discussion
The first session focused on school curricula of communication and media studies and the resulting challenges. The subject was interesting as media and university representatives brought up various crosscurrents ongoing in O-L and A-L introductory syllabii. Two prescribed texts were also discussed. The general conclusion was that both syllabii and textbooks are high flown, hence the teacher and the student are no longer interested in the subject. How reliable this conclusion is, I am not certain.
However most syllabii need revisions from time to time based on the media's evolution. New areas of information and knowledge have to be added. How to engage in this stupendous task is still a problem lying ahead. This was actually a debatable point of view, as the syllabus and the textbooks are introduced after a long period of discussion among teachers, researchers and media persons. They had to do work in a set deadline, perhaps in keeping with drafting of the best out of the worst possible outcome.

The dearth of the trained teacher equipped to teach was also pinpointed in the discourse. Some participants felt that the subject 'communication studies' had not been taken as a separate significant specific subject area, instead made to be linked with language studies. True enough, the subject of the type denoted as communication studies cannot be separated from language studies. But the subject has now reached a point where it has its own calibre and brand at all levels of education. This is one of the main reasons why the subject is spelled differently in various universities and higher schools of learning in line with other subject units.
For instance the communication studies is linked to aesthetic studies (University of Peradeniya), 'communication skills' (University of Uva Wellasa), 'journalism teaching' (University of Colombo), and Sinhala and mass communication (University of J'pura). These are only a few examples. In this manner there seems no uniformity. A suggestion ensued to follow a suitable title for the subject as 'mass communication' as the most suited, taking the cue from the University of Kelaniya, and following some traditions laid down there as the pioneer seat of learning which merits the introduction of the subject as far back as 1973.
The second session lay bare some factors pertaining to the role of the Mass Communication graduate and the challenges such a scholar faces in the contemporary social strata. How good and skillful is the scholar who passed out as a communication graduate in his performance, was the inner area of discussion. The presenters had the chance of showing that h/she is just not a stakeholder of any propaganda machinery or a petite organisational mechanism, but goes beyond the common sphere of academia expected to exhibit more skill in areas such as research, developmental, technological and creative measures. This was perhaps foreseen as a dream that may have been shattered from time to time depending on the inputs and the outputs anticipated by the society at large.

The third session, which was denoted as contemporary media issues, was also an interesting discussion. It revolved round various media ideologies such as the need for media, the issues of media ownership, the media content and the impact from the point of view of print, sound and visual media at large. Who benefits from what media was a significant issue that paved the way for a sensitive and resourceful discussion.
Though the topic, expansion of new media and policies in Sri Lanka happened to be the fourth session, more emphasis was presumably laid down on the advent and the use of new media. Especially the technological developments and the resultant impact on the masses and the conventional uses of the traditional uses of the media channels. The presenters skillfully developed their thought streams emphasizing global developments in new media and how they have seeped into the body structure of the contemporary Sri Lankan media scene tracing from the use of the Internet, mobile phones and Facebook.
This concept, a broader area, could be enlarged for better climate of opinion on the issues pertaining to ethical and regulatory measures. On coming to the last part of the discourse, the future plans on the part of the university teacher's role, the creation of the right climate for the understanding of the subject in its right perspective was the chief tenet of discussion.
The role and the need for the gathering of more and more knowledge via research projects was emphasized. The need to usher in diminishing impediments and constraints to the learning skills and teaching skills too was emphasized.
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