Three-D Issue 26: Chair’s report

27Natalie Fenton
Goldsmiths, University of London

We live in extraordinary times and I imagine many of you, like me, hardly noticed the end of summer term. Instead, we have been thrust into the uncertain world of life after a vote to leave the EU but before we actually know what that means – a strange way of doing democracy you may think, and one our media institutions hold no small responsibility for. Rarely has the relationship between media and democracy been so centre-stage and our field has been at the forefront of exposing the inadequacies of reporting during the referendum campaign and critiquing the potential consequences.

Since the last newsletter, MeCCSA has been doing the usual round of responding to government consultations in relation to the ‘Better Use of Data in Government’ and the ‘Stern Review of the Research Excellence Framework’. We have also addressed members’ concern at the implementation and interpretation of the Home Office Guidance for higher education institutions on Prevent (on prevention of terrorism) through support of a hugely successful Preventing Prevent conference.

Meanwhile the Green Paper on HE has become a White Paper on HE that was included in the Queen’s Speech and set for enactment. Then Theresa May, amidst a government cabinet reshuffle, shifted higher education from the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills back into the Department for Education. Now the future of the Bill is anyone’s guess but it certainly opens the opportunity for MeCCSA to engage in further campaigning to try and raise the profile of and limit any potential damage to our field. The impact of Brexit and the likelihood of a further increase in student fees with the introduction of the Teaching Excellence Framework will be felt most keenly in relation to student numbers. MeCCSA has commissioned a short video to explain to potential students and parents what media studies is and why it is a worthwhile subject of study. The video should be ready for Autumn 2016 and available for MeCCSA members to use.

The other impact of Brexit is of course in relation to the loss of European funding for research and educational exchanges. This will hit everyone. However, after the results of MeCCSA commissioned research (reported in this newsletter) into the funding of projects from the AHRC and the ESRC in the fields of Media, Communication and Cultural Studies in the UK it is perhaps even more of a concern for our own departments.

And in a world where insecurity and uncertainty prevail the responsibility of academics to question, critique and debate could not be more important. Our conferences are always sites of debate and engaged dialogue over critical contemporary issues of our times. Huge thanks go to the organizers of the 2016 conference at Canterbury Christchurch where the BBC Review and the Green Paper on HE were hot topics. The next conference in January 2017 is in Leeds, and already boasts a fantastic array of keynote speakers and industry contributors. In an act of international solidarity we have also invited to the conference colleagues in our field from Turkey where they are facing struggles over academic freedom, loss of jobs and in some cases facing imprisonment. They will join us to tell us more about the issues they are dealing with and what we can do to support them. Don’t miss it! I look forward to seeing you there!

Posted by Einar Thorsen