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Restoring academic excellence of IIMC is top priority, says its new chief K G Suresh

In an exclusive interview to indiatvnews.com, K G Suresh, the veteran journalist, said that his top priority would be to restore the academic excellence of IIMC.
Raj Singh April 12, 2016 17:11 IST
Raj Singh

New Delhi: K G Suresh, the newly appointed Director General of Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC), has big plans for India’s premier media institute and he is confident of delivering on his promises during his tenure of next 3 years.

In an exclusive interview to indiatvnews.com, K G Suresh, the veteran journalist, said that his top priority would be to restore the academic excellence of IIMC.

“I hope that during my tenure of 3 years, I would be able to restore IIMC’s position as the country’s premier media institution, not only for aspiring journalists but also for working journalists. That’s my primary objective,” K G Suresh said.

Interestingly, K G Suresh advocates CME (Continuing Media Education) programmes for working journalists that would be similar to CME(Continuing Medical Education) programmes for medical practitioners.  

Here is the full text of the interview:
Q: As the new Director General of Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC), what are your key priority areas?

K G Suresh: IIMC is India’s premier media training institution. I’m grateful to the Government of India for reposing faith in me. I hope that in the days to come, I would be able to prove to the best of my abilities what I can do for this institution.

My priority is to restore the academic excellence of this institution. When this institution was set up, it was mandated to set the benchmark for media education in this country. For whatever reasons, I don’t want to blame anybody but we have not been able to achieve that goal. We do get best of students, no doubt about it. We do have the best of faculties but in spite of that, there have been some gaps.

Initially, we used to have a lot of programmes, even for working journalists. All those, for some reasons have been put to the backburner. I believe that we have to restore IIMC’s pre-eminent position as the most prestigious institution in terms of academic quality. And that does not mean only teaching quality but also the quality of our research.

I would like this institution to reach new heights and become a role model for other media institutions in terms of teaching, research, output and quality of publications.

I hope that during my tenure of 3 years, I would be able to restore IIMC’s position as the country’s premier media institution, not only for aspiring journalists but also for working journalists. That’s my primary objective.

And I also want to develop IIMC as an intellectual hub where leading intellectuals of the country can come together. But it’s going to be a team work, I see my role as that of a facilitator only in the whole process.  

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Q: You talked about some gaps that came in the way of IIMC achieving the goals it was set for. What are these gaps and how do you plan to fill them?

K G Suresh: Research is one area where a lot needs to be done. We used to have quality publications including peer reviewed journals. We used to have regular books published from this institution which served as text books.

In media, one of the shortcomings we are facing today is that there are no quality publications. Most of the students, across the country, depend on foreign authors and foreign text books. We don’t have good text books in media education.

We need to motivate intellectuals across the country to write quality and international standard text books, papers in media research. That’s my objective because Indian media has completely different role to play compared to western media.

I think our children and students should be learning from Indian text books and Indian teachers because they know the Indian conditions well. Foreign text books are out of place quite often. Some of the things mentioned in foreign books are totally different from the ground realities here.  I believe that it’s important that these things are highlighted.

Q:  After taking over as DG, you announced that you will start teaching from day 1. What is the objective behind this initiative?

K G Suresh: There are two objectives. One, I have always considered myself not an officer but a teacher, basically, a media person. I have been teaching in this institution for the last 17 years as a visiting faculty. I think there can’t be a more privileged position that that of a teacher.

Second, by leading from the front, I wanted to convey two messages.   One, if the seriousness with which the  Director General himself is taking classes daily, it sends across a message of positivity and underlines the focus of the institution i.e. academics.  Secondly, it motivates the students also. It motivates the faculty also. Leadership is all about leading from the front. You have to lead by example. I can’t order people to do things that I don’t do.

Certain examples are very important for an institution and I think the head of the institution has a great moral responsibility of leading from the front.

Q: You said research is an important priority area. There is a demand that IIMC should be converted into a full-fledged university so that you could focus more on research and award degrees. What’s your perspective on that?

K G Suresh:  It’s true that we have to focus more on research. As far as university status is concerned, we have to gear up for that role. Let us be first competent and extremely excellent as a diploma institution to begin with. Then we can think of degrees and PH.D. I’m sure the faculty here is ready for any challenge but first we have to consolidate and after that expand and diversify.

Q: There is a perception that all the 5 IIMC centres falling outside the national capital do not have the same academic standard compared to the Delhi centre and that they are facing too many challenges including lack of permanent faculties.  How would you tackle that?

K G Suresh: Well, if you ask me, I would say that I’m not happy with the number of students studying there. At one of the centres, we had 4 students and 6 faculties. So, it’s not about faculty members only. It’s about putting more students. We have sanctioned strength of 15 students but for whatever reasons, we do conduct all India entrance examination. We have deliberately set up these institutions in slightly remote areas. Not many students prefer to go there but my focus would be to ensure that it’s not only through all India entrance examination because the objective of these institutions was to cater to the local regions. Let’s see if we can attract more talent from those regions.

In next 3 years, I want these institutions to be the best or among the best in their respective regions in terms of education, infrastructure, student quality etc. I certainly look forward to it.

Q: What are the main challenges that the Indian media industry, including media professionals and media institutes, is facing today? What new initiatives need to be taken to improve things further?

K G Suresh: Indian media has been doing extremely well. We have fought authoritarian regimes, we have fought Emergency. We have fought corruption continuously. We have exposed wrong deals of affluent section. We have been highlighting atrocities on the downtrodden. So, we have been doing a good job.

Of late, certain questions are being raised, particularly in the context of Radia tapes, paid news, commercialisation etc.

As the fourth pillar of the democracy, I am against any kind of regulation from outside but we need to do a lot of introspection and self regulation. This has to be a very serious aspect of our function because people still have a lot of faith in our institution. Perhaps media and judiciary are two institutions in which people have maximum faith. That faith should be maintained and strengthened further. And that would be possible only when we isolate the bad fish within us. It is important that we restored the values and ethics that the media has always cherished.

And media institutions, while laying emphasis on the practical and technological aspects, should not forget the mandate and priorities of media in a developing country like ours. We should not lose sight of the fact that we are here to serve the people, the masses.  It should come above sensationalism, TRPs and marketing priorities.

There is one more important thing. In the medical parlance there is something called CME (Continuing Medical Education) under which the medical practitioner keeps updating himself on the latest in the field of medicine but in our field, once we graduate or get a diploma, say 25-30 years back, we don’t look back at the media schools. I think there has to be a ‘back to school’ approach once in a while. And media institutions should formulate courses accordingly. There should be refresher courses and orientation programmes.

Like medical practitioners, we also need to have CME(Continuing Media Education) programmes under which, once in a while,  the hub core practitioners should go back to understand what is happening across the world. They should go back to text books to understand ethics and laws because, unfortunately, we see a lot of violations. So ‘going back to school’ has to be part and parcel of a media person’s life. 

Q: You have been speaking on the relevance of Swami Vivekananda quite often. If I may ask you, what is the relevance of Swami Vivekananda for media professionals in present times?

K G Suresh: Swami Vivekananda’s messages of ‘Love and Passion for the country’ and ‘commitment to people’ are the most relevant ones.

Swami Vivekananda had said long time back that if you have studied at the expense of the masses and if you are not contributing back then it is treason. So, this whole thing of giving back to the society what you have taken from and the responsibility of each one of us towards the society is the most relevant to the media today. Swami Vivekananda’s message, his thoughts are as relevant today as they were a century ago.

His exhortation “Arise, Awake and Stop Not Till The Goal Is Reached” gives you lots of energy and enthusiasm.  Swami Vivekananda said that he considered a person atheist who does not believe in himself and not somebody who doesn’t believe in god.

I think it’s very important for a journalist to believe in himself, not to get bogged down by what others say. It’s important that the ‘self-esteem’ and ‘dignity’ of the profession is restored and maintained.