Wednesday, October 03, 2007

NISCORT Completes 10 Years

INDIA Church Media Institute Completes 10 Years, Undaunted By Challenges

October 2, 2007

NEW DELHI (UCAN) -- People associated with a communications institute the Indian bishops launched 10 years ago say it has braved decade-long challenges to prepare media persons for the Church and secular world.

Among the challenges that have dogged the National Institute of Social Communication, Research and Training (NISCORT) are staff turnover, publicity shortcomings, the indifference of bishops and inadequate funding.

Father Henry D' Souza, secretary of the Commission for Social Communications of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India, says NISCORT's "big and small" contributions have strengthened the Church's overall communications effort, while its current director, Father Jude Botelho, says NISCORT "to a certain extent" has succeeded in its mission but still has more to achieve.

When the institute was launched in September 1997, it began as a small room in the Delhi archbishop's house. In 2003, it moved to its 1.61-hectare campus about 15 kilometers east of New Delhi. The academic block houses a library with more than 3,000 volumes, as well as a video studio and two audio studios. Its facilities also include three non-linear editing systems and a language lab, and the campus has a hostel that can accommodate 70 students.

Courses range from three months to two-year programs. In 2005, NISCORT was accepted as a "study institute" of Makhanlal Chaturvedi National University of Journalism in Bhopal, and it now offers master's degrees in print and broadcast journalism, and diplomas in video production. The first post-affiliation class produced 35 graduates.

NISCORT offers Church people a three-month course in pastoral communication. It also provides distance education in mass media through another university, and conducts seminars, film festivals and debates on social issues.

To balance its enrollment, NISCORT offers scholarships to qualified poor students, and subsidizes half the fees of some students in short-term courses.

Bishop Patrick Paul D'Souza, the retired bishop of Varanasi and NISCORT's founding chairperson, told UCA News that the institute has helped many nuns and priests learn communication basics, and some of its 200 alumni now manage communication centers in dioceses and Religious congregations.

Jesuit Father Jacob Srampickal, the former dean and now director of the Centre for Interdisciplinary Communication Studies in Rome, told UCA News through an e-mail message that some nuns "who would otherwise not have had any training in media got the training they deserved" through NISCORT.

Despite such achievements, many say the institute has yet to make its mark.

Father Botelho told UCA News the lack of publicity stunted NISCORT's growth, but more seminars are planned to open "our institute to others." Even so, the Bombay archdiocesan priest laments, many bishops still treat communication as secondary, and "dioceses could send more people for training."

However, Father Srampickal maintains that part of the problem rests with NISCORT itself, particularly a lack of vision that disappoints many of its students. Those running the institute believe "technology is the main thing," he said, but "in fact, technology is not communications. It is only a help."

A related challenge, the Rome-based Jesuit said, is finding the right staff.

Father Botelho agrees, but he said recruiting dedicated and committed instructors is tough because priests and nuns get transferred, and "highly qualified professors leave when offered four times what we pay."

Funding has long been a struggle, and Archbishop Oswald Gracias of Bombay, NISCORT's chairperson, told UCA News inadequate funding clearly has "stunted growth for many years." Now, the Italian Bishops' Conference, Missio Aachen in Germany and Stichting (foundation) Porticus in the Netherlands fund NISCORT.

Despite the institute's problems, the archbishop said, it is making slow but steady progress, and some alumni readily testify to the institute's value.

Gopal Kumar Jha, a Hindu who studied broadcast journalism, told UCA News he was taught not only media techniques, but also values such as punctuality, dedication and respect. "We also learned about current issues and events through workshops and debates," said Jha, now working for a Hindi TV channel.

Binu Joseph, a Catholic, is also grateful to NISCORT for the diploma course in video production that helped him find a job in "this competitive world."

Source: UCAN (

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