Coursework Master of Arts in Media Studies
Newspaper editors and TV producers interviewed on the introduction of the course argued that the post-apartheid era requires new approaches, critical journalists, and a greater understanding of the needs and frames of reference of a wider range readers and writers. Khaba Mkize, General Manager, Natal Broadcasting for example, talks of "communitarian journalism", "the greening of journalism" and "story-telling" in addition to "events-telling". David Willers, former editor of the Natal Witness, holds that "Interdisciplinary education prepares graduates as editorial writers and leaders because they can see beyond the obvious, they understand things in greater depth".
The Head of Education, British Film Institute, Dr Richard Collins, states, "CCMS" is unique for scholars and policy makers. The Programme combines extensive expertise of acknowledged international standard on all aspects of cultural and media policy with up-to-date awareness of regional issues." Others argue the need for a course capable of equipping graduates with critical abilities to analyse complex social, economic and historical processes. Development agencies and churches have also indicated the need for a course addressing African media needs in terms of development support communication.
Background: Locational Factors
Durban has significant media infrastructures: six major newspapers, ten widely distributed and highly profitable suburban newspapers, South Africa's largest magazine industry (Caxtons Press), Natal Broadcasting Services (part of the SABC) with two major radio stations, and two independent radio stations, East Coast Radio and P4. In addition, numerous initiatives are under way to establish community, educational and commercial radio and TV stations. The region also houses a number of community-oriented and suburban publications published in Durban, Pinetown, Amanzimtoti, Pietermaritzburg, Port Shepstone and Stanger. A number of trade union and ecumenical presses are also located in the Durban area.
Need for the Course: Economic Factors
A massive growth of media channels, technologies and markets has occurred throughout the world over the last decade. These range from satellite, telecommunications, video text and information technologies to national and international newspapers, regional, community and specialist newspapers and magazines.
South Africa is part of the international trend towards multifaceted development of the media and an information economy. The local demand for media professionals in all sectors of commerce and the state is increasing faster than they can be trained by tertiary institutions. Deregulation of the airwaves has led to the rapid development of privately-owned, university-based and community-run radio and TV stations.
As electronic media develop in sophistication targeting existing and new markets, so print media are in the process of reorganizing in response to these developments, often finding new niches, opening up new opportunities and spreading to economic and leisure activities which previously had no need of media.
As we move towards the millennium, media education needs to be both more widely focussed, and more specialised.
The challenges of the future are numerous:
Better-educated media professionals must be capable of reporting sensitively and perceptively on the changes and tensions in our society in terms of both surface events and structural sub-currents.
Media professionals must have knowledge beyond journalism skills and practices alone. This relates to knowledge of content and process- economics, politics, social science, education, finance, engineering, sport, arts and so on, and how to report on these.
Today's environment calls for an understanding of how new media technologies interact with each other, how they merge information flows mediated through the different channels to different audiences. This understanding is crucially important if southern Africa is to become competitive in the global information economy.
Media professionals need to understand and constructively exploit the dramatic changes in the political economy of southern African media. These result from corporate buyouts of South African companies by international firms (e.g. Argus by Irish interests) on the one hand; and on the other, the purchase of, or licensing agreements with South African firms of African and European media. The resulting long-term structural changes require a new understanding of regional arrangements and global, and political and economic processes in relation to new technologies.
The growth in media education is a rapidly developing element of schools and tertiary institutional syllabi. The development of critical media-literate citizens who can productively enter the information economy is crucial to any country's development.
The growing demand for media researchers and media managers requires graduates whose expertise transcends technical skills.
Media professionals need an up-to-date knowledge of emergent multimedia systems and an understanding of the relationship of these technologies with economic, social and political development.
Critical cultural policy studies will contribute towards enhancing democracy and development processes.