Richard Sambrook, who is the head of BBC News, has set up a ï¿½1 million fund to research into why teenagers do not tend to watch news programmes on a regular basis. He feels this is necessary as “the news doesn’t engage enough with the issues that affect people” and this seems to be true if the statistics over the last few years are looked at. Viewing figures have been slowly declining, despite the increase in news programmes, not just on terrestrial television but on the new digital channels as well.
When talking to the younger generation about why this is, a great deal of teenagers including a university student, Dilsha Lathia, 18 years old, feels that the news these days “just does not reflect issues that teenagers would consider to be important.” She felt that the news was important to watch, however for most teenagers, this was not a priority and would never be. Whilst another university student, Rachel Stevens felt that these news programmes were on at times when basically more entertaining and interesting programmes were on. The numerous amounts of compelling and appealing programmes that are on, not just for the younger generation, but for all audiences, it is not surprising that the figures are gradually declining.
The younger generation do not tend to watch news programmes such as Newsnight on BBC 2 or Tonight with Trevor McDonald on ITV 1 because as another teenager, Jenny Shackson, described them, “they are just not made for young people but for adults who are actually interested.” Another reason, it seems, why the younger generation does not watch news programmes regularly, is a result of the content that is seen everyday on the news programmes. High school student, Darren Geoghan, was “sick and tired of seeing the same old topic, for example, the Iraq dossier and David Kelley, being shown on TV but just with a new headline added to it.”
Michael Pittuck, another member of the younger generation, felt that “the older people that created the news programmes had forgotten about young people and what would appeal to us.” It seems to be that issues that do not connect the teenager to what is relevant to them personally, will not interest them and especially not in the form of a news programme. Showing them a clip on something such as a teenage killing, it seems will grab there attention immediately as student Shabana Shah explains this, “this is because any teenager could imagine it to be them.” Issues that concern teenagers is, most likely, the only way of being able to attract teenage viewers, which is understandable as it will bring to light the issues that worry and concern them specifically.
This is a suggestion to the researchers wondering why such few younger people watch the news; the news of today has to be told in such a way that young people can not only relate to it but fully understand what is being said, may it be political, economical or crime news. Certain heads and producers seem to understand this by creating programmes like, MTV News which is aimed at the younger generation. There is also Liquid News on BBC3, a digital channel, which does mix entertainment and news together but nevertheless does get the news out there.
However, this is purposely sexed-up to explicitly bring in the viewers, something that most likely would not happen to, for example, BBC 9 O’clock News. But, student Chloe Muirhead felt that if it weren’t for programmes, for instance like, Big Breakfast or more recently RI:SE on Channel 4, she “would have never of known of what was happening in the world,” which goes to show how influential these programmes can be despite not being as ‘serious’ as the usual news programmes.
This is a sign of what could be done to bring in more teenager viewers. University student, Sarah Watson believes that if there were to be news bulletins and headlines shown every hour or every two hours for 60 seconds during peak viewing time, so that atleast “younger people would know the political events or have some idea of them.” If a thorough analysis of this proposition were to be done, then as Sarah Watson suggests “it would be popular with a lot of people” in view of the fact that “it would be simple to access.”
Another proposal was news text messages via any mobile, which is available but for a certain price. Although if it was just one free text message a day which summarised the day’s top stories and headlines in a straightforward and simple style, as teenager Laura Wright claimed, “it might actually encourage more people to watch the news, particularly people my age.” However, this is digression of the topic as it did not address the issue of what could be done to persuade the younger generation to watch more news programmes not what could be done to ensure teenagers know the news, nevertheless, ideas such as these indicate the lack of time the younger generation can or are willing to dedicate to watch such programmes and how it is necessary that the news programmes need to appeal to the younger generation.
What the heads of such organisations are going to have to understand is that the teenagers of this day and age are not interested in watching news programmes, the result of a number of facts, however these reasons are all connected by the fact that the younger generation simple cannot relate to what is being illustrated on these specific news line-up and the grounds for this is merely the fact that the way the news programmes are made and shown, not the news, does not interest them. It will be no doubt fascinating to see what Richard Sambrook will decide to do after discovering opinions and suggestions such as these. However, only time will tell if the future steps taken will bring a rise in viewing figures.