‘Mass Communication can’t survive in this age as a single course’ – Prof Lai Osho [Pulse Interview]

Following the recent controversy about the unbundling of Mass Communication into seven departments in Nigerian universities and polytechnics, the President, Association of Communication Scholars & Professionals of Nigeria, Prof Lai Osho shares his view with Pulse on the development.

 

What informed the process is this, many people saw the NUC unbundling mass communication but didn’t appreciate the efforts of so many people in achieving that. What informed the decision is that scholars, professionals bodies, individuals and academic institutions felt that there’s been a lot of changes and development in the media landscape due to a lot of factors.

 Therole of technology in reshaping the landscape including economic and political factors. So, it was thought that for us to get people who are well trained; people who will be able to meet the demands of the current period that we are, we need to look at the curriculum in a more critical way than we have been doing, that suggests that we need to unpack the curriculum so that we can adequately take care of the sub-sectors of the media and communication industry and scholarship. It is a very large area, which we have always managed to teach under just one umbrella. We felt that that cannot survive in this age that we are in now. That led to the unbundling of the course.

Pulse: Do you think Nigerian Universities and polytechnics are ready for this?

 

Yes. What we are having, it’s not that institutions say Lagos State University or the University of Ibadan will go the whole hug in taking all the programmes. No. You look at your strength, where do you have the manpower, where do you have the resources and then you try to concentrate on it.

For instance, if one institution says we want to just stay with journalism and media studies, just take that and be a master there in terms of teaching the students; in terms of doing research. Be focused on that. If another institution says we have the people that can take on three programmes, and you want to do something like film, you have the resources; you have the manpower to be able to do film studies, broadcasting and advertising, you can go ahead. NUC does not even compel any institution to start a programme. What NUC does is to set up the parameters, the basic standard by telling you what you must have to run certain programmes and then they will inspect you to ensure you have those resources and then they give you the approval to run the courses.

Pulse: LASU started something like this twenty years ago, didn’t NUC agree with the university then?

Then, there was no move to this kind of unbundling that we have now. The NUC will only approve programmes where they have the basic standard. But the standard they had then was on mass communication and that was what schools were running. But we at LASU as people in the field either in academics or in the industry noticed that this mass communication thing is too broad. The students are not getting enough of each area. They just do a little bit of advertising, Public Relations and broadcasting. Even in some institutions, they don’t touch some of them but they will say they have mass comm. I have seen institution where you go for accreditation and the only thing you see is Public Relations and they said they have a mass communication department.

Pulse: The new curriculum does not capture Book Publishing and Photography, aren’t these part of mass communication anymore?

They are. that’s part of of the gap that we have which will be remedied as we go on. We need to have a programme about book publishing. I believe that and photojournalism and photography is an area that has really gained momentum all over the world. The media audience now seems to have more attachment to visuals, these are areas that will come up as we grow with this new curriculum.

Pulse: The new curriculum also separates journalism and broadcasting, isn’t broadcasting an aspect of journalism?

 Theyare not the same. You find journalism in broadcasting, you have course say in news writing, news production interviewing in broadcasting but broadcasting is more than journalism. The news is just a program in broadcasting, there are other programs such as entertainment and children programs, how do you produce those ones? Broadcasting will take of that, but they will still take courses in journalism as broadcast journalism. But when you go to print, the basic courses will be how do you write, how do you produce newspapers and magazines. Some of these things crisscross somehow, there’s no way you can teach print journalism programmes without teaching a little bit of photography, photojournalism, as well as newspaper distribution and marketing.

These are courses that are there. When some people talk about this unbundling that it is narrow, its because you don’t really know what is happening. There will still be a lot of inter-disciplinary collaboration among these courses. For instance, if you’re in print journalism, somebody might decide to say that my interest will be on critical review, you can decide to review music or films, that means that for you to have a very good understanding, you need to take courses in the department of film or programmes on film studies and production. So, there will still be this interdisciplinary collaboration.

Pulse: Do you think unbundling of mass communication answers all questions for students, lecturers and experts in the field?

No programme can answer all questions. Even the current, mass comm that we are having now, you find that students are expected to take courses in faculty of social sciences, management science, arts so that you can have well-grounded graduates.

No curriculum can answer all questions. That’s why I said there will be interdisciplinary collaborations. I will expect a student taking film studies for instance, who want to graduate in that area would have to take some courses in the department of the theater art or music, because these are areas that are related and such students may also have to take some courses in journalism like basic writing skills.

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