Key historical research related to the media in India was remembered as the pioneering Centre for Mass Communication Research at the University of Leicester celebrated 50 years of its existence.
Established in 1966 by field-defining academic James Halloran, the centre attracted several Indian scholars, journalists and students over the years, many of whom have gone on to lead media departments in universities or joined the media and cultural industries in several countries.
During a day-long conference here on Tuesday, leading lights of the field such as Annabelle Sreberny, Peter Golding and Graham Murdock recalled their association with the centre from the time the field of mass communication or media studies was not firmly established in British and American universities; it has proliferated in the decades since.
Senior academic Roger Dickinson told Hindustan Times: “The centre had very close links with India from the very beginning. Among its early research fellows was Dr Eapen K Eapen (from 1970) who had studied initially in Hyderabad and had gone on to receive postgraduate training in the United States before joining us as to work on a project on the media and national development - an enduring topic for which Dr (later, Professor) Eapen became internationally known.”
Prominent Indian researchers and journalists who studied for postgraduate degrees include Pradip Thomas, Kewal J Kumar, Vipul Mudgal, Rasheed Kidwai, Ramaswami Harindranath, Ilango Samuel Peter and Chitrangada Choudhury.
Dickinson added: “Research funded by the World Association for Christian Communication continued to help the centre maintain a close connection with media scholars in India, and over the years many Indians have studied as postgraduates and taken up teaching and research positions as well as visiting fellowships and professorships.”
The large Indian diaspora in Leicester has been of interest to the centre, prompting research on, among other things, the media habits of diasporic communities and the use of media for health education.
“Recent senior academic appointments are enabling us to renew our research interests in the fields of media, global development and health and we look forward to strengthening our research and teaching links even further with India in the future,” Dickinson said.
Sunil Manoharan, a Dubai-based sports media professional at STAR, said: “My postgraduate year at the centre helped me widen horizons and place international communications in its proper context: its power relations as well as its commercial imperatives.”
Research at the centre on India included topics such as media and terrorism in Punjab, cultural and political representation of women in the Indian press, an Indian perspective of media education, communication and development in India, and the news differential of the northeast and Jammu and Kashmir conflicts in the Indian national press.