A Three-Nation Comparative Analysis of Broadcast Curricula

By Kang, Seok; Wolfe, Arnold S. et al. | Journalism & Mass Communication Educator, Winter 2002 | Go to article overview

A Three-Nation Comparative Analysis of Broadcast Curricula


Kang, Seok, Wolfe, Arnold S., Kang, Jong G., Journalism & Mass Communication Educator


Across the world, higher education in radio-television is, to deploy a phrase used by basketball announcers, "in transition." Such change not only stems from transitions in higher education per se.1 Rather, the direction of radio-television education "can reasonably be expected to follow the interplay among political, social, cultural, and economic factors within and outside a particular country. "2 This study examines the radio-television, or broadcast, curricula of colleges and universities in the U.S., Britain, and Korea in order to discover how these curricula are configured and how they resemble and differ from one another.

Our choice of which nations' educational institutions to study springs from the following factors: We wished to compare and contrast higher education broadcast curricula in the U.S. with such curricula in at least one European, and one Asian nation. Two of the authors are native Koreans who speak and write Korean and English. One is a U.S. native; two are full-time mass communication faculty at a U.S. university. Preliminary data indicated that broadcast education in Korea was sufficiently developed so that a comparison of at least U.S. and Korean higher education in broadcasting showed promise of being meaningful.

We chose British institutions for comparative purposes because (1) Britain is in Europe, (2) nearly 130 such institutions offer broadcast study, and (3) data on their programs are available in English. Other countries' institutions could have been selected. In fact, one of the conclusions of the present effort is a recommendation that higher education in broadcasting be studied wherever it exists. This study, however, introduces a perspective on broadcast higher education that could be called global, even though the number and choice of nations sampled is random but small regarding number and nonrandom and convenient regarding choice.

Even so, we call for inquiry into other countries' higher education resources in broadcasting so that broadcast educators and industry representatives can, if they see fit, design model broadcast curricula. Without knowledge that can emerge only from analysis - rather than mere accumulation - of resources such as university course catalogs, such an eventuality would be more likely based on unstudied rather than studied reasons. In an effort to prompt this eventuality, we will also recommend a core of courses that this research leads us to think could, and arguably should, be required of all broadcast majors in the three countries studied.

Philosophical Background

Broadcast educators remain divided over whether broadcast curricula should be more theoretical or more skills oriented. But an early student of such curricula developed a typology by which they could be described. The types are liberal, practical, and liberal-- professional. "Liberal" curricula focus on theoretical, historical, and/or ethical approaches to radio and television phenomena. "Practical" curricula stress instruction in broadcast production skills. "Liberal-professional" curricula provide students with both skills and theory courses.

Debate over which curricula, let alone courses, are best persists. In fact as an anonymous reviewer of an earlier draft of this study observed, Niven's categories are not beyond interrogation. For one thing not all skills courses are aptly described as "professional." A painting course, for instance, may focus wholly on skills instruction and development yet offer no promise, either directly or implied, that mastery of course content will enhance students' opportunities to become "professional" painters. Similarly, the reviewer noted, not all theory courses are aptly categorized as liberal arts course offerings. A course in mass communication law can be taught in a manner that stresses profession-specific skills. As one of us understands through his teaching of mass communication law, broadcast regulation particularly can be presented to students as a recitation of FCC rules that govern such professional matters as how and how often a station must identify itself. …

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