Traditionally, the senior executives in media businesses have made it to the top through a combination of practical experience and natural ability. Very few had the chance to take courses or receive formal management training in the field, relying instead on their powers of observation and the advice of those around them.
Therefore, it was no surprise that the full-time Master's degree course in communication organised last year by the Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU) received an overwhelming response. In view of this, the university will now introduce a Master of Social Sciences in Media Management programme in January 2006 to cater for media executives and those hoping to enter the industry.
"We can see there is a huge market for people wanting to pursue further education in this field," explains course director Dr Guo Zhongshi. In fact, the enrolment figure of 120 for this year's MA in communication was almost 50 per cent more than in 2004.
"Some applicants had to be turned down because we couldn't accept everyone," he adds.
With improving economic sentiment and an increasing number of print, TV and Internet media companies in both Hong Kong and China, Dr Guo anticipates burgeoning demand for professionals trained in the full range of media skills. Their abilities are also sought for jobs in public relations, human resources, circulation and advertising, financial management and publishing.
Dr Guo notes that the ways in which individuals and organisations prefer to communicate are changing. "If a newspaper closes down, it isn't because people no longer need information. It shows that a more efficient means of communication has been found," he says. "Media companies are not so much changing the way stories are covered and reported, but the way they manage their businesses. Unfortunately, it can also lead to presentation becoming more important to them than content."
The new media management course is the first of its kind in Hong Kong and will combine the strengths of HKBU's schools of communication and business. Specific course modules will cover advertising, public relations, finance, media law and ethics, human resources management, marketing strategies, media business policy, and corporate governance.
The programme will also feature a "distinguished speakers" series in which top-level executives in the media and other industries will talk about real-life cases and their own experiences. Students will be encouraged to undertake company visits and short-term field trips to get a first-hand understanding of how different businesses operate.
Dr Guo believes those completing the course will have excellent promotion prospects and will broaden their range of career options.
There will be one-year full-time and two-year part-time courses available. For each, the intake will be between 40 and 80 students. Up to 50 per cent of the full-time students are expected to come from the mainland, as is the case for the current MA in communication. Applicants are required to have at least two years' relevant work experience.
Since many people doing media jobs work evening shifts, they might even consider taking the full-time option without having to quit their jobs. If that is not practical, the part-time study option is still open to them.