Few subjects have been as belittled over the last two decades as Media Studies. The supposed pointlessness of Media Studies degrees has seen the subject become the butt of many jokes. In schools, Media Studies has struggled to survive in the face of the government’s relentless drive to promote ‘academic’ subjects. Like many other creative subjects and the Arts, Media Studies has become devalued and entry numbers at both GCSE and A Level have plummeted. The simple question is: Why?
Is there a more relevant and important subject than Media Studies?
It’s hard to think of a subject that is actually more relevant or important in the 21st century than Media Studies. It is a subject that is grounded in society. It focuses on communication and culture. No other subject deals with gender or ethnicity representation as closely. No other subject even comes close to discussing the immense power that media moguls wield over us.
Mass media content, from news to film and television drama, across all forms of advertising, through to video games and social media, is so ubiquitous in society that its influence has to be worthy of study? Surely, young people (and adults alike) need to appreciate how media content is produced and by whom; what its messages are and what effect it has on us?
In today’s political climate: Trump, Brexit, and the rise of populism, etcetera, it’s probably never been more important to understand the role the media plays in our daily lives.
Media Studies struggles to shake off its stigma
In schools, before the recent GCSE/A Level reform, Media Studies had become a popular subject. It was seen as an accessible subject choice and one that most students responded and related to well. However, it never really shook off the stigma of it being seen as a ‘soft’ subject. The perception (although there was always plenty of evidence existing to the contrary) was that Media Studies was somehow easier and less academic than other subjects.
Media Studies has never really been able to shake off the tag of it being the subject where kids sit around watching TV and play at making films.
The defining subject of our age?
There is a clear and compelling case to argue that Media Studies is one of the defining subjects of our age. Sadly, although there is now a greater awareness of the role and impact of mass communication, the powers that be have somehow failed to make the link with Media Studies as a subject discipline. Similarly, despite the fact that creative industries continue to be one of the fastest-growing sectors in the UK’s economy, it would seem that the government sees little value in educating young people about the impact of the media, or in building a future workforce with the necessary skills.
Bizarrely, ‘creativity’ is not even assessed, credited or valued whatsoever on the coursework element of the new GCSE Media Studies specifications. Yes, that’s right, students are expected to make media products, such as short films, advertising campaigns, or website pages – but are not rewarded for being creative!
It really does beggar belief, but it’s true. Nothing highlights more how devalued Media Studies has become. It really is time that the subject was taken seriously.