REGIONAL APPROACH TO BROADCAST TRAINING
BY MR. R. BALAKRISHNAN
Managing Director, AIBD
Paper presented at the Regional Seminar on Communication Education
between 30 September and 2 October 1982 at Dewan Sri Budiman , ITM, Shah Alam, Selagor, Malaysia.
Mass communication education is of fairly recent vintage the world over. The absence of a long tradition of education in this field has its value and lessons, especially for those in the developing world; in that we may be spared the errors of the others who had an earlier start than ourselves. That assumes, of course, that we have a capacity and sensitivity (is it sense?) to learn from others.
I propose to deal with the subject in two parts:
a) in terms of the experience in AIBD
b) in terms of some thoughts I hold dear for the moment about Regional Training.
The first thought I would like to share is that a regional approach to broadcasting can succeed only where there is the recognition that the national efforts and national institutions given to broadcast training are strengthened. One cannot succeed without the other. Each component is essential for the healthy and orderly development of the other.
The second is that regional approach should not depend on the principle or belief that it needs only an institution to succeed or it can succeed only if a mandate to do a job could be claimed. I believe anyone who seeks to claim a mandate must suffer insecurity. In short, a regional approach to broadcast training must rely on a number of institutions, within and without the region.
No single institution can ever hope to have all of the professional competence and expertise that is necessary to mount systematic, well-programmed and meaningful manpower development programme for the region as whole.
If one should reflect for a moment on the number of skills and disciplines required for the making of a programme, the effective management of a broadcasting system, it will not be difficult to see that no single institution can have the resources to meet the overheads required to maintain a huge battalion of professionals on its staff.
It is in developing excellence in some areas that an institution can be realistically expected to secure/employ resources. And it is a network of such institutions each known for its excellence in one or more areas of broadcasting that can effectively contribute to regional training.
The third point I wish to share with you is that the word 'training' is often understood, at least in academic circles, within the limited confines of skills and trade schools. In talking about professional training, I would suggest that it means more than that; that it is a word between the conventional terms of education and training we have not found or discovered in English. The French word meaning "perfectioning" may have something to offer. For unless training, in a professional context, is a littele better understood, I am afraid the active links that there ought to be between academic and professional training institutions and peoples will never come to pass. Each will believe the other to be a little limited, inferior, irrelevant or unnecessary.
The fourth point is that regional broadcasting must be seen and accepted as an effort at widening the horizons of professionals , as sensitising them to a variety of approaches to the worth and value of broadcasting to a community or those who own and operate them in different countries; not as an effort in sharpening skills alone, but perceptions as well. In particular, that training must not be seen as an alternative to real experience.
As against those thoughts, what is our experience at the AIBD? In dealing with that experience, I should also take this opportunity to speak about the Asia Pacific Institute for Broadcasting Development (AIBD), its organisation, programmes, rationale for existence, etc; some thoughts about the type of activities that might be considered as requiring priority attention at a regional level may also be in order. In the course of the presentation, if there are ideas or views that appear to be simplistic or irksome in their philosophical structure or practical possibilities, I would wish to assure you that I stand to be corrected.
The AIBD is a regional inter-governmental organisation headquartered in Kuala Lumpur. It was founded in 1977 although its programme began on an experimental basis in 1972. It has a Governing Council composed of 11 countries, with Malaysia the host country as a permanent member. Of the other ten, once in two years half the membership retires with each member elected to the Council having a term of four years. Besides these country members who have voting rights, a number of international and regional organisations such as the UNDP, UNESCO, ITU, ABU, CFTC, etc are members of the Council without voting rights. The Director of the Institute, who is its Chief Executive, is ex-officio member of the Council and serves as its Secretary.
Countries that are members of the Institute are obliged to pledge an annual subscription, the upper limits of which is voluntary, in multiples of USD 500 per annum, that being the minimum any member could elect to subscribe. This scheme which has pinned the institution to a voluntary mechanism of contribution from participating member countries, does leave the Institute with a measure of uncertainty about its core resources in any year making for problems in planning, forecasting, etc.
The Governing Council meets once a year, provides the policy guidelines for the Institute's work which has been and is likely to remain for a while longer as follows:
1. Organising and executing training activities at the Institute as well as in countries within the region, which are members of the Institute (in a number of instances, activities in non-member countries have also been carried out);
2. Promoting the development of national training capabilities;
3. Providing advisory and consultancy services;
4. Developing training materials;
5. Encouraging research in broadcasting as well as training matters;
6. Encouraging experimental and prototype work; and
7. Developing a regional network for training in broadcasting within the region.
The region that the Institute covers stretches from Iran in the West to Western Samoa in the Pacific. The task set for the institute as well as the size of the region within which the Institute operates are formidable and challenging, as evidenced by the number and range of activities that the Institute has been engaged in thus far. As of today, the Institute has organised 253 activities accounting for 4,524 persons trained within the region using close to 500 or so resource persons drawn from all over the world. The training activities covered by the Institute have included subjects such as programme production, presentation, scripting, etc in radio, television and film; planning operations and maintenance in engineering; management; research; training methodology and specialised applications of broadcasting in support of development efforts in education, agriculture, health, population, environment, consumer affairs, etc.; news, current affairs, graphics, design and animation.
Despite the range and number of activities, the Institute does not seem to have been able to deal with the needs of the region satisfactorily. By some reasonably educated estimates, it appears that there are no less than 100,000 persons engaged directly in broadcasting in the region. Despite that staggering number, over a 10-year period the Institute has not been able to deal with more than 5,000 persons and at the rate of delivery, the Institute could not train more than 1,000 persons a year even at the best of times.
You may ask a number of questions: Would it be necessary that all of the 100,000 need to be trained? If not, what may be the specific number? In what areas, where, by whom and with what resources? And even more cynical questions could be: Do people in broadcasting need training or could they be trained at all? I would hope that any discussion that may follow this presentation might provide some answers. Without jumping the gun, let me make only some observations about broadcasters generally in the region.
Every study that has been made about the educational levels among the broadcasters would seem to suggest that less than 10% have had any type of education beyond the secondary level; even smaller percentage of those employed in broadcasting have had any type of formal training. Many have learnt the job on the job. If that should be true, broadcasting must be one of the very few professions, if it is a profession at all, that so intimately touches the average man in the street daily, with so few in it who have been prepared for it; whose only preparation is through trial and error and the sufferance of the general public. At a time when excellence of performance is sought from all those engaged in various types of public activities, it seems a little anachronistic that broadcasters should remain without the opportunity for an adequate preparation before they join the profession.
In the 1960s leaders in society recognising the role of broadcasting in the development of society, took the initiative to establish various types of training schemes and training institutions in the region. One of the outgrowths of these initiatives is AIBD. AIBD's work is yet to be evaluated or studied, but we know that it has been performing a service much needed by the region as evidenced by the fact that almost all the courses are fully enrolled to the point it is unable to meet the demands made by the member countries.
Nevertheless, over the last few years the efforts in establishing and refining national training capabilities may address itself to:
The development of the technology of training
This should cover the development of trainers, training material, training curricula, management of training programmes, training institutions, etc. It is an area in which trainers in professional institutions and teachers in academic institutions could work in tandem for mutual benefit. Very often there is mutual disregard or disrespect between the two groups.
Development of tools and techniques
This is necessary to identify the needs and the measurement or evaluation of training programmes that are aimed at alleviating such needs.
Seminars and symposiums
These are necessary to bring together decision makers and policy formulators to consider appropriate manpower development programmes in the face of rapidly changing circumstances of communications technology. Such seminars or symposiums could also provide opportunities for participants to offer alternatives to existing conventional and constitutional approaches to education and society.
To examine existing conventions and mechanisms relating to regional or intentional cooperation in manpower development in this field.
Education in training
Besides skills development, education on a wider front is also important to encompass the notion of sensitising a broadcaster to be alive, alert, artistic, and functional all at one and the same time, is how we we view our role in our Institute. That is why our Institute has tapped resources globally to execute its programme. There is validity in believing that regional training should be done by regional trainers and national training by national trainers. This of course depends on whether one is viewing it as culture-specific or with universal application. We hope if training has an element of education it also implies widening of horizons for both the trainees and trainers. Widening horizons cannot be achieved successfully within the narrow confines of geography, culture or politics!
To summarise in a few points what I believe to be regional approach in broadcast training:
1. Professional or academic institutions given to the business of manpower development within national frontiers, should be willing to work through a network arrangement to share expertise, experiences and materials for the benefit of the region as a whole.
2. Managements must be prepared to recognise that training calls for the best of professionals to be trained in the art and science of transmitting their expertise to others who will follow them and that training institutions should not become depositories of deadwood, the unwanted or quarrelsome in operational settings.
3. Professional training will not just be classrooms or studios but also miniature or simulated operational broadcasting facilities so that professional training can be undertaken in settings similar to operations to which trained personnel will return.
4. Training should not be seen as one of exercise but one that weaves through the career of a broadcaster ever so often, but not so frequently as to making him a professional trainee all his life.
5. Broadcast training cannot and must not be seen in isolation to other media and disciplines.
It has been in our experience at the AIBD that the notion of regional training is politically saleable; the political will to translate the political idea into a functioning reality has been sorely lacking, as with all co-operative ventures a regional institute or a regional programme is one with which all partners will identify but to which few will obligate themselves; fewer still will have a sense of responsibility to make available resources. That can only be realised if there was an enforceable code of participation in moral, material and monetary terms, among partners to any regional venture.
An apology is in order to those who may have expected out of this address views on the structure and content of broadcast training activities at regional level. I shall not pretend and will therefore readily admit that I know little or nothing of what should constitute the content of any programme. It would be for professionals and experts in the know. My effort has been to draw attention to what may be attempted through regional action and the considerations that condition regional action for the development of broadcast manpower. Even in that, I may not have adequately covered some issues or areas but will be ready to learn from your participation and views which can only help the work, role and place of AIBD within the Asia-Pacific region.