Why are we still arguing about Media Studies?

On the 17th August 2020 a twitter account with less than 1000 followers tweeted the following; “7,557 A level students took French. 19,517 took media studies. This is a crisis.” I agree this is a crisis, especilly when you look at the number of students who study other subjects (62,544 took Psychology and a further 36,789 Sociology).

It’s a crisis that MORE people dont study media. Why have attitudes not changed in the last 15 years? Why are we still have these same conversations when its becoming more and more clear how important media studies is.

screenshot of the tweet from Harry Wilkinson

I never studied media until I got to university. I took on a wim an AS level in film studies in my second year of college as my law and business A level class clashed and I had to make up my hours. I loved it, I utterly fell in love with film – and when it came time to get my results and decided my uni choices I threw all my plans of Business and Law degrees in to the wind and instead studied Film and Media. At the time there was a lot of negativity about studying film/media it was the mid/late 00s and media was about to undergo a shift that none of us saw coming – the impact of the internet was only starting to edge its way in to traditional medias existence, myspace and bebo ruled social media and facebook was just around the corner.

I find it really sad to see that we have not evolved as a society in those 15 years, and are still insistent that Media Studies is a ‘waste of time’ or flimsy as a study choice. When in fact we should be encouraging the study of media from a younger age. If children understood media, how it was made and what it was designed to do, they would be equipped to make much better choices, it would improve internet safety and help with the spread of false information.

Young people spend a lot of time online, in fact people of all ages are spending more time online, being able to engage critically with the online landscape is extraordinarily important not just on a personal level but also on a wider level in society. Media Studies at its heart, is about learning to critically engage in the way media is produced and how simple changes can affect how it’s viewed. It’s about analysing what is presented, how it’s presented and why it’s done that way. Understanding how these things work are fundamental skills. I would argue that these skills are relevant now more than ever as some of the most needed and well used across any industry.

Since graduating I have worked on some of the most amazing projects, been all over the world and met some of the most amazing people and had the privilege of telling their stories. None of this would have happened without studying media. In fact everyone of us consumes media in some way or another, most of us dont even realise we are doing it. We have seen media (and peoples lack of understanding of it) change how elections are won and lost, how news is delivered to us and how people understand the world around them.

Over 2 million people work in the creative industries in the UK and every single person in the UK would benefit from being more thoughtful about their media consumption in the complex information environment we live in. I’m OK with people studying media studies in fact I encourage it.

So yes it is a crisis that 19,517 students took A level media- because really that number needs to be higher.

flat image of lots of old and new media devices