In early October, students from the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism spent four days in Manchester and MediaCityUK in nearby Salford as part of a practicum course designed to introduce communications and media industries in the UK. The custom course provides close contact with industry professionals, ideally timed as the third-year students prepare for graduation and their first job search.
When the BBC ordered to decentralize London operations as part of a government charter review in the mid-2000s, much of their operations moved to MediaCityUK, where land and property developers, The Peel Group, had redeveloped the disused terminal docks of the Manchester Ship Canal to create the most digitally-connected media campus in Europe. The BBC’s arrival in 2011 encouraged support businesses, such as Dock10 digital media services, to set up on-site. In 2013, ITV moved a significant portion of their operation to MediaCityUK as well. The campus is now the second most important media hub in the UK and Europe, after London.
The group was hosted by The Landing, a workspace and incubator for technology and digital SMEs, where they met with various digital media organizations such as Ostereo, a record label which uses data from social media, YouTube, and Spotify to discover, sign, and promote artists on a global scale. The visit was timed perfectly to attend The Landing’s monthly networking event where over one-hundred tenants and partners, meet, pitch and introduce their work to each other. It was an ideal setting to practice their networking skills.
The weeklong study tour followed three themes: the development, history and function of MediaCityUK, and its role within the digital media revolution and entrepreneurship. Highlights included a tour of the BBC Sport studios with presenter John Watson, who even took the students into a TV gallery during a live broadcast; and a tour of Dock10’s studio facilities with Head of Studios, Andy Waters, to view where programs such as The Voice and UK children’s classic, Blue Peter, are made. Andy spoke to the students for an hour after the tour, discussing the television industry over the past twenty years, and MediaCityUK’s role in that change.
The group also collaborated with students from Quays News, the University of Salford TV-news channel, which is housed on their campus at MediaCityUK. Two USC students were interviewed for a segment on the weekly live news broadcast, discussing their impressions of MediaCityUK and their experiences as foreign students in the UK.
Through meetings and engaging discussions with behemoths of British media, as well as small digital media companies at the vanguard of their industries, the students gained a holistic view of UK Media sectors. They also learned professional networking skills in an international context, with an eye toward career development. “Most importantly,” reflects Accent programs coordinator Harry Isitt, “the students learned that there is life outside of London, something all Londoners would do well to remember.”