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The Faculty of Communication and Media Studies was established in 1972 with the cooperation of Ohio University and began as the first full-fledged School of Mass Communication in Malaysia.

The academic programmes offered at the faculty are in line with the development in various areas of communication and media. The objective of the faculty is to educate and train Bumiputera students to become professionals and who will then serve as agents of change in the industry and ultimately, the society. In pursuit of realizing our vision of becoming a premier academic institution in communication and media studies, the faculty strives to continuously provide conducive environment that aims to foster excellence in teaching, learning and research.

Although the curricula of these programmes are similar to those offered by other Universities, where ever relevant, it is slanted towards developing graduates who are ready to face the challenges of the dynamic nature of the global practices and knowledge-based economic environment.

The faculty's curriculum offers a broad range of studies in journalism, public relations, broadcasting, advertising, publishing as well as liberal communication. Five programmes are offered at the bachelor's degree level and one programme at the diploma level.

 


 

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

SCHOOL OF MASS COMMUNICATION

On June 23, 1970, Institut Teknologi MARA Director visited Ohio University, in Athens, Ohio, USA. Tan Sri Arshad Ayub, who for some years had been considering the possibility of establishing a communication programme in ITM, therefore expressed interest in seeing Ohio University’s College of Communication and its School of Journalism, one of the largest and most highly reputed in the United States.

Conversations were held with Dean and Director John R. Wilhelm and Associate Professor Ralph E. Kliesch regarding higher education for journalism in Malaysia and the possibility of consultative assistance from Ohio University in planning such a programme.

Facilitated by a sabbatical leave from Ohio University and the good offices of ITM, Assoc Prof Kliesch arrived in Malaysia on July 30, 1970, for a stay of approximately four months, to conduct a “feasibility study” for a communication programme at ITM. More than three-fourths of that period was spent in intensive investigation into local conditions relevant to such a programme and evaluation thereof.

The investigation included formal discussions with some three dozen individuals representing the Malaysian government, mass media, higher education and private sector. In addition, informal contacts, ranging from brief, unplanned chats to conversations of some length, were made with nearly as many other individuals relevant to the project at hand.

These “target of opportunity” include nationals of perhaps a dozen countries and range from officers of the South East Asia Centre to mass media educators from other Asian countries to the Malaysian Minister of Information himself. In addition, there has been extensive contact with administrative and academic staff of ITM, from Director Arshad on down, who cordially support the proposed program and who sought to be helpful as possible.

By November 19, 1970, Professor Kliesch submitted a report providing guidelines for the establishment of what was to be designated as the School of Mass Communication in ITM. Prof Dr Kliesch said:

“The course was tailor made to the needs of industry. I talked to the newspapers’ publishers, editors, the advertising executives, the broadcast producers, the public relations people from the public and private sectors to determine what they needed”.

The result was a programme which not only satisfied rigorous academic standards but which was also relevant to local conditions and needs.

On Tuesday, June 8, 1972 at 2.30pm in the Registrar’s Room at Jalan Othman, Petaling Jaya, in an academic disciplinary meeting, the School of Mass Communication came into effect. Before that, on Friday June 9, 1972 at 9.20am in the Meeting Room in Jabatan Perpaduan Negara, Jabatan Perdana Menteri, Kuala Lumpur with Tan Sri Mohd Ghazali Shafie as the Chairman, in an ITM Board of Studies meeting, the Board agreed in principle to the establishment of the School of Mass Communication.

This process had been a long time coming. ITM had been advocating the teaching of journalism as far back as the mid-1960s. On February 3, 1968, the local press (Utusan Melayu and Berita Harian) carried news stories of ITM’s consideration of such a programme.

At about the same time, Universiti Malaya looked into the potential usefulness of establishing a journalism training project. It concluded however that there was insufficient need for such a project. In fact, Universiti Malaya had earlier considered such a programme but abandoned the idea because it was thought to be too “vocational” and unbefitting as an academic discipline.

Some practitioners even questioned the need for a journalism programme when their own experience had been “learning on the job”. It was when Universiti Malaya rejected the project that Universiti Sains Malaysia started introducing a few Mass Communication specializations in its Humanities and Social Science degree programme beginning from the 1972 session.

ITM decided to independently evaluate the need for such a programme in Malaysia. It caused a feasibility study to be conducted by Professor Ralph E. Kliesch of Ohio University, Athens, Ohio, USA, for the purpose of assessing the need and potential for a mass communication programme at ITM.

The study revealed that there was a definite need for improvement in several media related areas – in print and broadcast journalism, in government information programmes, in the commercial world of advertising and public relations, and in research toward understanding public attitudes, opinions and media behavior.

Also the Second Malaysia Plan’s concern with nation building, both in terms of economic growth and in terms of modernizing the attitudes of the people in Malaysia has considerable implications for mass communication. Because ITM believed that education and training can facilitate improvements in the areas mentioned above, it launched its School of Mass Communication with an intake of 35 students in July 1972.

Besides that, Professor Kliesch felt there was an immediate and urgent need to initiate a mass communication programme and recommended that ITM should set up the School as soon as possible.

In short, the first full-fledged diploma (equivalent to a general degree) programme directly in the name of Mass Communication was initiated by ITM when the School of Mass Communication was established in July 1972. The graduates would be conferred a diploma (equivalent to a general degree) specifically using the designation of mass communication. What it meant was, the Diploma in Mass Communication would be issued by the School of Mass Communication, ITM, per se. The first intake of 35 students began their courses under the first Head of School, Datin Marina Samad.

The School has been named School of Mass Communication. Several alternatives presented themselves when it became necessary to choose the School’s name.

It was felt that the School of Journalism would represent too narrow a scope, because to many people, journalism is limited to reporting of the news. It excludes advertising and public relations. Communication, on the other hand, is generally taken to encompass not only mass media activities but also non-media activities such as group dynamics, telephony and telegraphy. The term, the School of Mass Communication is felt to be the most appropriate for the programme already launched; it also leaves some room for future growth.

Accreditation was also of equal importance to the emerging School. In 1974, the School applied for accreditation from the Department of Public Service (JPA) to recognize the Diploma as an equivalent to a degree. And to ensure its graduates would not face difficulties in entering graduates studies after obtaining their diplomas (degrees), the School made an effort to get international accreditation. The School decided to hold an accreditation meeting in late 1974. Three universities from the United States were invited for the discussion. They were Ohio University, Athens, Ohio; Boston University, Boston, Massachussetts and Washington University, Seattle, Washington State.

These universities sent their representatives. For Ohio University, Dean John R. Wilhelm. Boston University sent Prof Bernard Rubin while Washington University sent Prof Alex Edelstein. They were in the school about three weeks to a month. The School ensured they received hotel accommodations, a Visiting Professor’s office and telephone facilties. Dr Sankaran Ramanathan who just finished his Master’s degree in the United States and just returned was put in charge of taking care of them by the Head of School, Datin Marina Samad.

Discussion at times got heated between Prof Bernard Rubin and Prof Alex Edelstein. They had cooling off periods before finalizing the accreditation process. Finally, in early 1975, the three American universities conferred the accreditation. All graduates from the School were recognized as having a degree even though the name then was Diploma. They recognized it as a General Degree and the graduates would enter the three universities’ master’s programmes. The process was finalized just in time to enable the School’s group of lecturers-to-be selected from its first batch of graduates sent to obtain their masters to enter the fall intake.

In 1973, new space was being given to the School on the 13th Floor of the Multi Storey Building of the new campus in Shah Alam. According to Assoc Prof Dr. Baharuddin Hj Aziz when he became the first batch student for the Broadcasting programme, “It was 1974 and there were only a couple of rows of shop houses in Section 2, Shah Alam. The rest of the area was red soil (tanah merah). We called ITM then the ‘High Chaparral’. It was like a desert. All were just red soil”.

In 1994, Assoc Prof Dr Baharuddin Hj Aziz became the Dean for the School. His main task was to set up the new School of Mass Communication building. He did the briefs and specified that the TV Studio should be on the ground floor.

He said, this was because to get an access to the road when bringing in entire and oversized equipment that could not fit in a small elevator. He selected that particular spot for the School because there was a beautiful sweep of Shah Alam’s view. Later, however, a condorminium was built next to the new building which blocked the building’s spectacular view of Shah Alam.

Dr Baharuddin said, “I was working till 2am on the 13th Floor of the Multi Storey Building where the School of Mass Communication was situated then. I heard a lot of footsteps and people laughing along the corridor. When I looked out, there was no one there but at the end of the corridor I saw shimmering things just like the pom-poms that pom-pom girls twirled around”.

He continued, “We had designed everything because the whole complex was supposed to be for the School of Mass Communication. But due to the depressed economy and political crisis, we had to reduce the budget. Later, we had to share with the then School of Law and Public Administration as well as the School of Information Studies. Now besides us, it housed the Faculty of Sports Science and Recreation as well the Faculty of Administrative Science and Policy Studies.”

 


 

FACULTY OF MASS COMMUNICATION

In 1996, ITM Act was amended. By the amendment to the ITM Act, the School’s Diploma which was at first an equivalent to a General Degree was upgraded to a Bachelor’s General Degree. It became known as the Bachelor’s Degree in Mass Communication. The School’s name still remained the same until 1997, when it was changed to the Faculty of Mass Communication simultaneously with the other faculties in ITM. It still remained in UiTM Main Campus in Shah Alam but now consisted of two floors, the 12th and 13th Floor of the Multi-storey Building which was later changed to Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Building.