“Just don’t mention the m-word – ‘merger’,” whispered my neighbour at Friday’s Association of Journalism Education (AJE) conference before we entered the final session on the role of the accrediting and qualification bodies and the future of journalism training in the UK.
Efforts to bring the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) and Broadcast Journalism Training Council (BJTC) together under a Joint Journalism Training Council forum are ongoing and having spoken to interested parties before, Journalism.co.uk has been told that while a single accrediting body is desirable, the two groups are very different beasts, with different structures and remits.
According to panellist at the event and BJTC secretary Jim Latham, the next meeting between the two bodies is scheduled for this week.
“We [previously] allowed ourselves to become distracted by some issues that shouldn’t have got in the way (…) There should only be one accrediting body, but the devil is in the detail,” conceded Latham.
Going forward, less focus will be placed on the differences between the groups – in particular the NCTJ’s revenue streams – and what can be done jointly.
Both BJTC and NCTJ representatives on the panel where cautious about giving a merger date.
“I think Jim and I are largely in agreement about a single body. How we’re going to achieve that remains open to debate,” said Joanne Butcher, director of the NCTJ.
Demand for a single accrediting body was challenged by some members of the audience, support by others.
“The world has changed the definition of what a journalist is. Convergence isn’t the future, it’s already happened,” said Tim Luckhurst, professor at the University of Kent’s Centre of Journalism.
“I only wish we could have one gold standard body (…) It cannot happen quickly enough. It needs to have a single set of exams. The NCTJ wants to make its mark – one way it could do this is by setting a single gold standard for journalism.”