This is something the regulatory agencies and the most powerful Mass Communication scholars have approved of. By the authority of those who should know, there is a major move to break down the Mass Communication Degree so that the graduate knows more and knows better of the area of Mass Communication he or she is going into rather than what is considered an omnidirectional but directionless structure of that degree today. That is, if everything goes according to plan, BA or BSc Mass Communication would soon be extinct in the Nigerian university education system. In place of that would be BA/BSc Journalism, BA/BSc Broadcasting, BA/BSc Advertising, BA/BSc Development Communication, BA/BSc Public Relations and so on and so forth.
Although courses such as ‘Theories of Mass Communication’; ‘Sociology of Mass Media’ or ‘Media in Society’; ‘Comparative Media Systems’ and perhaps ‘Media Geopolitics’ would still remain common to all the courses but someone who is eyeing Public Relations would not be compelled to take, say, News Reporting/Writing which is the sort of course unit a Journalism inclined student must take. In the current arrangement, a student of Mass Communications is made to take a bit of everything until perhaps the fourth year when he or she concentrates more on the area s/he is more inclined. In the coming arrangement which is understood to have basically been approved at all the levels concerned, the student of Mass Communications will be admitted not to Mass Communication but to the specialisation. According to the masterminds of this arrangement, what that means is that, although s/he would still take electives from the other realms, they will be nothing but electives. The assumption is that the typical student will turn out more knowledgeable in his or her specific area rather than the current structure which makes him or her jack of all trades but master of none.
The big question now is: would this solve the problem or compound it? Some people would say that the problem is that the media is in deep trouble on account of the dynamics of the post Cold War. The geopolitical and technological changes that closed the 20th century have disrupted the old foundations upon which the media establishment rested even while new ones are emerging but perhaps too slowly. Such new theories, new concepts and new practices in the space of flows are either not sinking fast enough or are still being contested. In certain cases such as in Nigeria, a great deal of some of the new arguments has not been sufficiently integrated into the teaching programmes in the universities and polytechnics. As such, media managers have no choice than to make do with what they get.
That is what played out during a recent visit or courtesy call on a media manager in one of Nigeria’s most hospitable but also most volatile cities. The visiting team was, coincidentally or deliberately, made up of many active and former media academics and even practitioners. One issue that predominated as the session wore on was the quality of media productions the members said they observed nowadays. When it was the turn of the host media manager to respond, he said he too was very much aware of the crisis of quality in media output but surprised his guests by saying, “However, we are giving it to you as you gave them to us”. He meant that media houses could not be expected to make a difference if the products from the universities cannot sustain such a height. It was such an apt rendition of the problem that the frankness was not considered undiplomatic but sobering.
Media professors and trainers appear to have been noting the alarm bell from such instances, including the one where a media chief currently serving in the Buhari regime called off an interview session because what he heard from the first question posed to the first interviewee gave him headache instantly. The message: the quality of Mass Communication training is part of the problem. But, again, the big question: will the coming fragmentation of Mass Communication Degree help the media in Nigeria?