Whither media studies?

Martin Sohn-Rethel

At this year's A-level media conference, held at the Institute of Education, London, teachers considered the future identity and direction of the subject at a time when it is expanding rapidly in school and higher education.

Pete Fraser, a teacher at Latymer School, Edmonton, north London, and one of the organisers of the conference, reminded the audience of the criticisms that had come with the subject's success. How can so many media students find jobs? Why should they find work when production training is inadequate or the teaching overly subjective? He rejected such criticisms, but it raised the important question of the gap in perceptions between media teachers and media professionals.

If media studies is to be a recognised currency of skills in the professional jobs market, how should its exchange rate be assessed and monitored? How can teachers establish goals for educational and professional practices when the working world which it analyses carries on regardless?

The conference also revealed the different interpretations of media studies, as an analytical subject that has been the first to take popular texts as serious objects of study, a creative subject which asks students to make media themselves or a subject which explores meanings but which courts controversy when it prefers some works over others.

In another session, Farrukh Dhondy, who is the gatekeeper for multicultural programming at Channel 4, railed at the political correctness of some media teachers as well as some Bangladeshis who demand more positive images and ethnic role models and thus sanction multiculturalism in its most sterile form.

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