1966 – Centre for Mass Communication Research founded

James D HalloranWhen James D Halloran joined Leicester University in 1958 as Senior Tutor in the Department of Adult Education, ‘mass communication’ was not an academic subject. But the field was changing rapidly: the Coronation had prompted a massive surge in television ownership and the launch of ITV had given people a choice of viewing. Jim Halloran taught evening classes at Vaughan College but found that he ran out of material so developed a module on the Sociology of Communication.

This was turned into a paper published in a journal on Catholicism (there being no communications-related journals at that time) and then formed the basis of Halloran’s seminal book Control or Consent: A Study of the Challenge of Mass Communications, published in 1963. That same year, the Home Office set up the Television Research Committee, chaired by the Vice-Chancellor of Leicester, Fraser Noble - who appointed Halloran as the Committee Secretary. Initial funding for research at various institutions produced mixed results and confirmed Halloran’s belief that what was needed was a dedicated academic research centre.

The Centre for Mass Communication Research at Leicester was consequently established in 1966 under Halloran’s directorship. It attracted a diverse group of academics from various disciplines, reflecting the absence of existing focus on communications research, but fortuitously leading to a multidisciplinary approach which benefited the centre. James Curran, a leading media theorist and author of Power Without Responsibility, has described Leicester as the “original hotbed” of mass communication research.

For the first decade or so of the Centre’s existence, all its students were studying for PhDs, many of them drawn from India and other developing nations. Then, in 1978, the Social Science Research Council (predecessor of the ESRC) invited Halloran to design and deliver the UK’s first Masters Degree in media and communications. Thus was born the University of Leicester’s MA in Mass Communications, a degree which is still popular and relevant 35 years on. A distance learning variant was launched in 1995.

Jim Halloran’s other great contribution to the subject was his role as President of the International Association for Media Communication Research. Established in 1957, the IAMCR had just 70 members when Halloran was elected in 1972. By the time that he stepped down in 1990, the organisation had grown to a major international body with 2,000 members from 70 countries.