The name is "School of Convergence." Housed in the premises of the International Management Institute at B-10, Qutab Institutional Area, New Delhi, this school offers courses in an area, which is, in a sense, the darling of the media today. The school is promoted by Cyber Media Foundation, a joint venture between Cyber Media (India) Ltd, the publishers of Dataquest, PC Quest, Voice & Data, and Kaleidoscope Entertainment.
The School of Convergence looks at Convergence "not in a technical sense". Explains Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, director of the School of Convergence, and currently the anchor of "India Talks" on the CNBC India channel, "Convergence means different things to different people, and what we are talking about is media convergence. In a rapidly shifting media scene, the media professional of the future will have to be conversant with all types of media - print, radio, TV, Internet as well as films."
True, some of the trendily dressed young men and women who troop in to check it out, come imagining it to be a school that teaches such "cool" things like mobile telephony, interactive TV and so on. But what is being taught here is a mix of all media-related skills - from writing skills to management to principles of light and sound - in short, everything. The course spans two years, divided into three semesters per year, at the end of which the student gets a Post Graduate Diploma in Content Creation & Management.
Though students have an option to specialise in Print & Internet, Radio & Television, Film, or Management in the second year, in the first year they have to learn a whole range of subjects that include, communications, aesthetics, management, technology, journalism, entertainment, radio, Internet and films.
To start with, the school will have only visiting faculty, mostly senior media professionals such as professors from the International Management Institute - MM Anand, (professor, marketing, IMI), to cite an example - C Uday Bhaskar, deputy director, Institute of Defence Studies & Analyses, Arnab Goswami (NDTV), Anand P Raman (executive editor, Harvard Business Review), Ravi Vasudevan (film historian), Sunny Singh (playwright and author), Amita Malik (author and media critic).
The school will induct its first batch of students this year. The course will start in October. And no, there are no similar courses anywhere else in the world. The idea for the School of Convergence came from the fact that existing courses are too focused - journalism courses focus on editing and writing, while film education seeks to impart either directorial skills, or technical skills, such as, operating a camera or sound recording equipment. To quote the prospectus, "The school tries to educate young individuals to become effective creators and managers of content in all streams and forms of media, to become multimedia professionals in the true sense of the phrase as well as media entrepreneurs."
However, right now, the idea does not seem to have caught on, which probably explains the reluctance of school officials to divulge the exact number of applications that they have received (with the last date for receiving applications having closed on July 30). The promoters are keeping their fingers crossed. Says Thakurta, "We will start the course even if there are only 10 students, as we see this as the beginning of a new trend."
Yes, beginning of a trend to teach subjects where the masters never studied their art. Like Satyajit Ray, who began his professional career as a visualiser in advertising firm Clarion in Calcutta, or Mark Twain and Hemingway, who - at some point in their crazy lives earned their bread by being hacks, but - never went to a writing school. As Partha Pratim Sinha, director marketing, Zee Network, puts it succinctly, "What is most important in this profession is aptitude. If you have that, then a bit of guidance is good; but the key thing is aptitude." The other is sensibility - a "worm's eye view" as defined by the American journalist Ernie Pyle, who during World War II, followed soldiers into battle in Asia and the Pacific and wrote stories about them.
Nonetheless, what looks to be a potential stumbling block for the school is the course fee - Rs 50,000 per semester, for tuition alone, working out to a hefty Rs 3 lakh for the entire course. The school also faces tough competition from established media schools such as the Indian Institute of Mass Communication, and the Jamia Millia Islamia's Communications department. Both are much cheaper, and have already created a niche for themselves in the market.
But the plus point is the school offers internships at the end of semester VI, followed by a placement programme. The institute does not make any formal commitment, but encourages reputed media organisations to participate in campus recruitment schemes. For its part, the Cyber Media group will recruit students who complete the course with an A grade (A+ is the highest a student could secure, A comes next on an eight-point scale).
But the opportunities are obvious. It is estimated that the total turnover from the Information, Communication, and Entertainment sector of the Indian economy would more than double from Rs 84,000 crore (US$ 20 billion) in 2000 to Rs 200,000 crore (US$ 45 billion) in 2005, creating at least half a million more jobs.
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