Three-D Issue 18: Local public service television: New idea for master’s level course

David Rushton
Institute of Local Television

This one calendar year course will be at masters level. It follows the successful – if short lived – masters in local TV management run by the Institute of Local Television in conjunction with Queen Margaret University (College) in 1999-2000. These students graduated to form Edinburgh Television, some to then work on start-up pilots for Perth and Stirling others to run Channel Six Dundee. After two years the graduates occupied senior and largely self-directed roles moving on to employment at BBC Scotland, at a satellite sports channel, setting up in commercials production and establishing TV graphics and TV production companies.

The course will not focus entirely upon the digital Freeview platform for which local licenses are proposed by the DCMS. Although five or more of these licenses are likely to be awarded in Scotland from 2013 the course will also address TV and TV-like news programming, current affairs, communications policy, commercials, advertorials as well as local, regional and national documentaries for new public service channels in Scotland – whether delivered by mobile, wi-fi or broadband to computers or TVs.

The course will be offered in units involving five or six students at a time so that a spectrum of skills and services required for local forms of TV are taught and implemented across the year. We expect a student intake of twenty-twenty-five in the first year although this number will be subject to the Freeview licenses and accommodation plans. The course will be based in Edinburgh at the new Summerhall arts centre.

An initial outline of the objectives and proposals to meet academic standards has been prepared for internal discussion and the academic ‘units’ and the links with delivery and broadcasting are subject to discussion. The course content itself will not be especially novel, focusing on high quality journalism and documentary content. What will be new is the local public service context, the sustainability of series production and viewer engagement contributing to assessment.

The Institute of Local Television has made initial enquiries to SQA for accreditation although are considering partnerships with other academic bodies if appropriate. We understand that our funding model could be a challenge although this does not present problems for SQA accreditation.

Parallel university(?)

In addition to their course fees students contribute ‘their work’ to the university. For assessment it is assumed that a student’s work has no real monetary value.

But as costs to study rise to exclude students from further study in the humanities we need to consider an alternative way to secure on-going educated population.

For those students who have learned how to avoid failure by successfully graduating, a post-graduate course need not remain indifferent towards possible monetary value in the student’s work-contribution.

It seems counter-intuitive to not monetise these work-assets and perhaps even disingenuous to overlook how to monetise intellectual work as an alternative to all (or part) of a course fee.

A post-graduate student’s work can be monetised in the market into which they will graduate adding to a student’s credibility with employers.

Why should the transition from course to work remain as a cliff face and not become as a gradual slope?

Post-graduate students offset some of the costs of their education by working as assistant lecturers or tutors. A more formal work-related relationship could be encouraged as a part of their post-graduate course.

In a Parallel University (PU) a graduating student’s annual labour is deemed equal to the monetary value of their notional course fee. In a PU all or some of that course fee is waived in exchange for the student’s copyright to their work. The institution becomes entitled to monetise their work up to the value of the waived fee. The institution might morally feel obliged to repay any surplus either in real income or to add a supererogatory mark to the degree certification.

For the proposed Institute of Local Television Local Public Service Television masters the post-graduate student’s contribution as work will be equivalent to an annual fee of £12k. The work is ‘paid’ gradually in work successfully assessed and then ‘sold’ to the Institute’s broadcast partners. With digital goods the student and the Institute each retain a copy; it is a limited right to use for broadcasting that is sold. In gaining this right at no material cost the Institute’s partners provide equipment, accommodation and teaching equivalent to the value of student-fees with a stake in assessment, with a pass represented in published or broadcast work.

The student’s annual work-contribution is sub-divided into units each with a variable but disclosed monetary value. On a weekly basis the monetisation of these components would be delivered over an average of twenty-thirty hours or less. For a £12k fee this represents a weekly contribution to the value of £250 PU pounds over a calendar year.

The uncommitted hours allow for any re-submissions as well as for paid work some of which might be with the Institute’s broadcast/broadband partners and undertaken for payment in £ Sterling.

Posted by Einar Thorsen