BBC BLOGS - The Editors
« Previous | Main | Next »

Taking sides

Rod McKenzie Rod McKenzie | 09:12 UK time, Friday, 6 July 2007

We know that younger audiences are turning away from TV news - that's not new. But OFCOM's report this week makes some bold suggestions about how we might halt this trend, as well as analysing the reasons behind it.

One of those is doing away with impartiality rules "for all but key public service broadcasters". The idea here, is that will make for more opinion-led, partial bulletins everywhere on the scale from Fox News to the Daily Express to the Independent and leftwards.

Radio One logoSo impartiality puts young audiences off?

I think that's tosh.

Oops, there goes my impartiality.

Younger audiences are much more media savvy than that, and they "get" this stuff. They know where there are no rules, where it's a free for all on the web, where anything goes. They like that. But they also sometimes want a fix of impartial and balanced - and we should help them to know where to go for that fix. But it needs to be interesting not dull.

Our problem at the BBC in news is while that many audiences respect what we do, some younger and ethnic minority audiences are put off - not by impartiality - but by our inability to make it matter to them. We don't do enough to explain why these apparently dull stories are interesting and relevant: we don't do enough to make them accessible. Our agenda is sometimes too narrow to feel anything other than a conversation between some middle-aged people from which others are excluded by lack of background knowledge or the tone of the discussion.

And that, of course, is the classic dilemma for the BBC. Paris Hilton's name only has to cross a newsreader's lips for an outcry of "dumbing down" - editorials in the papers and raised eyebrows from politicians and the chattering classes. As a result, we have been known to get a bit cautious editorially in the face of this onslaught.

I think what young audiences want is robust, interesting, passionate debate about stories and issues that affect them and their lives. The voices we hear should be more outspoken, less impartial and from wider, and yes, more extreme, viewpoints. But the glue that holds this together should be the context and impartiality of our journalism - true to it's founding ideals. We should give everyone a say - at the moment we don't always do this. When we do, we'll be stronger, and younger audiences will respect us for it.


  • 1.
  • At 09:34 AM on 06 Jul 2007,
  • Dave McKean wrote:

What the BBC does not do, which i believe has a huge effect on the lack of interest from the young, is to give proper context to the stories it reports on. For example, you'll report Israeli deaths by saying "Israeli's die in Palestinian Terror Attack.." or rocket attack or what-not, then you'll go to your correspondant in the area who will re-hash the same 'facts' about the attack juxtaposed with grizzly images of bodies, people screaming and running and so on..BUT, what you never do, ever, on the Television News is to give a reason WHY this is happening. Therefore you are not engaging anyone who does not already know the background. I remember blankly watching the conflict in the middle east for years, as a child, on BBC news, and it was only as i reached about 20 years old that i decided to take an active interest and research it myself. I am now very well versed on the situation and find myself equally frustrated with the BBC for an apparently natural bias toward Israel, as well as an overall lack of detail. So if you know nothing, the BBC won't give you the context to understand, however if you know lots, the BBC won't give enough balance to satisfy one's concern. So we're stuck either way. But to re-iterate (rather clumsily) my main point, it is purely the lack of fair and factual context to news stories that keeps young people disengaged. I used the middle east as an example, but the same thing goes with internal British Politics.
If you were to ensure that all the major stories, all the main news items about that issues that really 'matter', more importantly that matter to, or require the engagement of young people, were given a brief context on the nightly news, then you will find young people engaged. And while i'm not blaming the BBC for the lack of engaged young people, there's definately a lot more you could do. A lot.

  • 2.
  • At 09:44 AM on 06 Jul 2007,
  • John R wrote:

Before the usual "BBC is biased" crowd floods this topic with boilerplate whinging, let me just say that I was encouraged by your final paragraph. Too many people assume that they is a single, finely balanced "impartial" viewpoint that journalists can and should take. This, frankly, doesn't exist.

Instead, the best way to be as impartial as possible is to provide for as many different viewpoints as possible and to let the viewers make up their own minds. A single programme may express a particular, biased view, but the sum total of views expressed should cover the gamut.

The world has enough one-sided broadcasters in it. Thanks for trying not to be one of them.

Or, those young people who are being pandered too and dumbed down so much that they are only interested in the latest edition of "Heat" magazine ought to feel some pressure to develop a more sophisticated interest in proper news. If it all becomes "interactive", partial and "relevant" there'll be no incentive to do this and no chance it could even happen.

I totally agree that we, the great British public, are much more media savvy than the media and its regulators give us credit for.

There are many slots in broadcast where public AND personal opinion is clearly and effectively articulated without having to be news - for example, comedy: Rory Bremner, Dead Ringers, The Now Show - all these programmes are great at speaking the truth, albeit coloured with humour and large doses of cynicism, in a sometimes very detailed way, which does not hold back from comment, rather in fact benefits from it.

  • 5.
  • At 10:23 AM on 06 Jul 2007,
  • Duncan wrote:

I've stopped watching the news at 6 and 10, but I do make an appointment to watch Newsnight. The reason is that this programme assumes that its viewers already know the basics of the days events and gets right down to an in-depth look with intelligent comment.
Given that anyone with an Internet connection can read the basic news at any time, maybe the future for television news is precisely this Newsnight kind of analysis: you cannot easily replicate live studio debate on a web page, but it something at which television excels. With interesting guests and robust presentation it might win back audiences to news without compromising impartiality.

  • 6.
  • At 10:24 AM on 06 Jul 2007,
  • Andrew Thatcher wrote:

The BBC is constantly partial in it's news coverage. Lets take an example from last nights Ten O'Clock news which was followed up on Radio Five Breakfast this morning. This is the story of a young grandmother whose house was flooded. The story was that the local MP and Flood minister turned up. She feels that as she doesn't have contents insurance the government i.e. taxpayers i.e. everyone else that does pay contents insurance should bail her out. This is clearly an outrageous proposition, but the BBC doesn't think so. The context was never put, the woman is made to feel that the BBC backs her, and apparently will continue to by updating us with her pathetic campaign to get a plasma TV off the state. What is bizarre about that is that the BBC can't be bothered to get updates say on the 5 Brits kidnapped in Iraq over a month ago, but a inarticulate whinging sponger? Lets start a campaign! Pathetic.

  • 7.
  • At 10:30 AM on 06 Jul 2007,
  • Harry wrote:

I agree with Ofcom that news providers should be free to present their own opinions and take a partial position. I think the BBC tries so desperately to be impartial that its reports end up middle of the road and politically correct. I want journalists to take a special interest in a topic and report it how they see it to me. It is my choice and responsibility to listen to other opinions from different sources and make up my mind.

i.e. i can only form an opinion by reading different opinions, not by listening to a single 'impartial' report which can never be impartial.

  • 8.
  • At 10:35 AM on 06 Jul 2007,
  • John Allen wrote:

A 'fix' of impartial and balanced? You can start by giving the yoofspeak a rest. Listening to Newsbeat is exhausting. Its breathless, sloane-slummy presenters surely get fed up with talking like that?

Anyway, the old BBC tropes about 'robust, interesting, passionate debate' etc are meaningless. I doubt that most young people ever really enjoy the news. They would rather hear about Paris Hilton, because it is more frivolous. Later on, they'll get jobs, pay taxes, and take an interest (in both senses) in the more serious stuff.

I don't envy the Beeb. It has to meet the expectations of the 'chattering classes' (to which its editorial staff almost by definition belong) which paradoxically means banging on about lofty public service duties whilst providing anyone who tunes in with entertainment. It is for this reason they always manage to be so cloyingly condescending.

As yourself: Rod, do you actually intend to do anything along the lines you outline here? What 'extreme' 'relevant' views are there on Paris Hilton, that you will be airing now that have been silenced before? Or will you and your successors continue saying all of this stuff, whilst basically running the same shows they always have? In the round, the BBC does just fine... just quit rehearsing this waffle.

  • 9.
  • At 10:36 AM on 06 Jul 2007,
  • Anon wrote:

But if "what young audiences want is robust, interesting, passionate debate about stories and issues that affect them and their lives" then there really is no need to discuss Paris Hilton. The whole point is that such celebrity stories are entirely irrelevant to people's lives and function merely as escapism.

Be careful of suggesting that "more extreme" viewpoints should be heard. People with more extremes tend to shout louder, but this does not mean they are more representative, or indeed important. The most pertinent debates in this country are not between people with extreme views (whether UKIP, Communists, Islamic fundamentalists, militant pro-lifers/choicers, animal rights extremists) but the more moderate (the slightly more EU-sceptic Tories vs the slightly more pro-EU Labour members [one cannot be sceptical of 'Europe' after all, in the UK one stands on its continental mass...]; well-educated Imams and theologians; the rational religion of the Catholic and Anglican churches [although that one may be changing]; Greenpeace is generally preferred to PETA). The debates between such groups are often dull and detailed, but tend to deal with more practical issues. However, such news is often dull. As are many office jobs, commutes, food preparation and housework. If people are unwilling to accept that important and necessary things are not necessarily 'interesting', then they will spend much of their lives disappointed. One of the greatest talents of human beings is to accept things as normal and dull, why try to accept otherwise?

Reading this is a real relief, OFCOM seem to think that the only way to make news interesting to 'young people' is to change it until it's not news any more.

As long as BBC news never makes the mistake the Olympic Committee made in choosing their logo (in the hope of 'connecting with the youth') by assuming that the youth have lower standards and can't appreciate quality, I'll keep watching.

Partial "news" and opinionated comment is already widely available in the nation's newspapers. People already have the opportunity to have their opinions spoon-fed to them - the moment you buy The Sun, The Independent, The Guardian etc you're signing up to ideologically-biased reporting. Do we need this on television too? I think not.

  • 12.
  • At 10:50 AM on 06 Jul 2007,
  • kp wrote:

I don't consider the BBC a reliable source of information after the WTC7 story. Most of the BBC focus is around creating a climate of fear over some terror attacks by terrorist who are as organised as Beavis & Buddheat or Mr. Bean. I'm sorry but your news coverage has no interest for me and I think you are at best misguided and at worst willingly fermenting the climate of fear to support the governments plans.

  • 13.
  • At 10:51 AM on 06 Jul 2007,
  • Will Duffay wrote:

The implied contempt for the 'chattering classes', i.e. anybody who is slightly informed, is very disappointing. Stories about Paris Hilton should be condemned - they have absolutely no place in a serious news programme. BBC TV news is now unwatchably juvenile for anybody who reads a broadsheet, but then I would guess that doesn't concern you. These days only ratings matter, so you provide tabloid news - patronising presenters, empathetic faces, simple captions etc - for the masses. Who knows: maybe you're right. Unfortunately the simplistic approach to TV news taken by the BBC results in only half the story being given. It's an interesting irony: by trying to appeal to the uninformed, you now fail to provide enough depth and detail actually to inform!
What is true, though, is that the only TV news worth watching is Channels 4's. You could learn a lot from them.

  • 14.
  • At 10:51 AM on 06 Jul 2007,
  • Paul Speller wrote:

The real problem is that somehow a huge proportion of younger people have become convinced that Paris Hilton's antics and whether Victoria Beckham has a new diet are in some way relevant to them, whereas politics are irrelevant.

This is very convenient for the peddlers of celebrity magazines and other celebrity culture products, but patently untrue.

These young people - and I speak as someone on the upper edges of the category myself - are unable to buy houses because of economic policies and political decisions, they may be struggling to make ends meet as a result of societal inequalities which could be addressed by political policies, and of course they'll all witness the growing disaster of global warming if no political action is taken urgently, but still they insist that politics is not relevant to them, whereas the minutiae of the lives of people they will never meet - and whose lives they have just about no chance whatever of experiencing themselves - *are* relevant.

It's a completely illogical position but none of the people putting it forward on vox-pops, in focus groups and surveys etc. is ever challenged on it, so it persists. And the more people like themselves they hear espousing it, the more valid a position it seems, and so it has snowballed into the default position of most young people.

We need the media and all public figures to answer back to anyone putting this ridiculous point across so it can be killed off. And that's not some sort of thought-policing - it's a simple but vital correction of a widespread factual inaccuracy.

  • 15.
  • At 10:57 AM on 06 Jul 2007,
  • Tim Porter wrote:

Save for C4 News, the majority of TV news has been dumbed down and so many stories are accompanied by graphics and illustrations reminiscent of satrical programme, The Day to Today. Last night on the O'Clock News, Evan Davis presented a story on the interest rate hike; when he attempted to explain who might be the winners and losers be, hey presto, actors appeared pretending to be the people he was talking about - is this really necessary?

The current view by broadcasters is that audiences either don't have the attention span or don't want anything that can't be broken down into lightweight chunks.

If TV news spent a tenth of the effort on analysis and content, that it spends on the presentation, then more people young and old would watch it.

As for giving "everyone a say" - well that assumes all opinions are equal... but they are not, that's why we have editorial control.

  • 16.
  • At 11:00 AM on 06 Jul 2007,
  • Chris Powell wrote:

I agree with Dave McKean, there is not enough analysis. But programs like Newsnight would need to be two to three hours long to examine all the issues that get me wound up.

But it is the anti-BBC crowd who constantly complain that the BBC is too partial and that there should be NO analysis, just the very bare facts. For those that complain the news is too bare bones, turn to Newsnight or Question Time.

The thing that gets me mostly annoyed, (an artifact employed especially on BBC News 24) is to repeat, verbatim what has just been said by someone being interviewed or speaking at a press conference! Why? Why not just repeat the interview? Or, preferably, put in some more news.

  • 17.
  • At 11:00 AM on 06 Jul 2007,
  • W Mobberley wrote:

In one of the Norfolk wards the BNP got 34% of the vote in the council elections. That astonishing statistic means that if I wander through that part of town ONE IN THREE voters I rub shoulders with voted BNP!!! There was also a massive increase in the BNP vote across the country which while not translated into seats was nevertheless significant.

Doubtless there will be many people who would be alarmed by this shift in voting patterns but whether they like it or not, the BNP IS a legal political party, apparently commanding quite a lot of support. One way in which they have increased this support is by claiming that they are the only party willing to engage in proper debate about sensitive issues.

So what do the BBC do? They play into their hands by opting for a news blackout about virtually anything BNP, especially the true extent of the support they are gaining!!!

In reality it is about time that Nick Griffin got to appear on Question time. Then we could all see for ourselves what contribution to the debate he really has to offer. Until that happens, there is no way the BBC can claim to be impartial and it just makes them look as though they are frightened that Griffin might say things which would win him further support rather than lose it.

Oh how entertaining it would be! You wouldn't have to agree with everything he says to enjoy the rumpus. Whatever one's opinion of Griffin or his party, it would be good for democracy if we could actually hear what he has to say and hear reasoned argument for and against him. Anything else is just plain censorship and certainly not democracy. Don't you people have anyone capable of taking him on?

  • 18.
  • At 11:03 AM on 06 Jul 2007,
  • Robert wrote:

If the BBC decides that it can adopt a partisan approach to its presentation of the news then I, for one, will campaign vigorously for the abolition of the licence fee.

We have a choice as to whether we buy a rabidly right-wing newspaper such as the Daily Mail or its counterpart the Guardian - if the BBC adopts an overtly party political stance then I'll be jiggered if I'm going to pay the BBC (by which I mean its editorial and camera facing staff) to peddle views with which I strongly disagree.

  • 19.
  • At 11:11 AM on 06 Jul 2007,
  • Martin wrote:

I've turned away from News24 which I used to have on in my office because I find the increasingly 'light entertainment' nature of - over rehearsed 'jokes', private chats and comments between the presenters - a real turn off.

  • 20.
  • At 11:11 AM on 06 Jul 2007,
  • Camilla wrote:

This kind of thing really annoys me - you only have to look at the BBC's recent Have Your Say to realise how many of today's young people are actually concerned about "real" issues.

  • 21.
  • At 11:14 AM on 06 Jul 2007,
  • Louise wrote:

I don't want to know what the news reader thinks of the news, I can form my own opinions, thank you.

  • 22.
  • At 11:16 AM on 06 Jul 2007,
  • Andrew Dundas wrote:

I am very pleased with your recent more analytical and deeper news items from Afganistan and Iraq that described in more detail the development work and issues faced by the British contingents in those areas. Whilst those reports did not, and could not, cover the full involvement of our country in Iraq since 1917, nor in Afganistan since even earlier, those reports were a much more thoughtful than other media have attempted. I doubt that such reports would fit the attention span of many viewers but you should not be discouraged by that.

  • 23.
  • At 11:18 AM on 06 Jul 2007,
  • sandymac wrote:

You are right to suggest that young people will be engaged if the issues being discussed affect them but, there will only ever be a small percentage who ARE interested. This is nothing new, only as you get older do you become interested (not everyone though)or engaged. I watch channel 4 news now because of the variety and depth of news, I am of the opinion that the news at 6 is a brief general headline - not a news report. As for local news, well, a toe curling embarassment.

  • 24.
  • At 11:24 AM on 06 Jul 2007,
  • Duncan Pratt wrote:

I feel the news is to soft so it's now meaningless.

Like the interview with the flood damaged woman mentioned earlier.
This morning on the BBC Breakfast News program they interviewed The new PM, they allowed him plenty of time to promote how the country needed change but never asked him why considering he was the most powerful chancellor in UK history for the past 10 years with the power to have already made those changes.
Unless the reporters and interviewers start challenging their subjects they are nothing more than party political broadcasts.

Bring the bite back into news reporting to make it worth watching.

  • 25.
  • At 11:26 AM on 06 Jul 2007,
  • Robin Sure wrote:

I must confess, I typically consider the BBC to be impartial, if a little alarmist, especially as the anti-government they occasionally appear to be, but I do still trust them to present true things, without extreme slant.
I am curious though, as to how left- or right-wing newspapers are supposed to be. Obviously the Daily Mail, the Express and Sun are hardly moderate, but how biased are things like the Independent, Guardian or the Times, which I tend to think of better papers?

  • 26.
  • At 11:33 AM on 06 Jul 2007,
  • Bedd Gelert wrote:

I would echo Dave McKean's point that one cannot assume that in these days of the National Curriculum and emphasis on literacy hours and the like that young people will understand the history and background to many conflicts.

Jeremy Bowen did an excellent series on the Six-Day War recently, but many young people up to that point may not have had the background explained to them.

Likewise, who amongst our young people today could name the 5 permanent members of the UN Security Council, and why they were chosen ? There is not an understanding of the full history of the Second World War.

It is not surprising that young people don't think the news interests them if they have been deprived of fantastic series like 'The World at War' or 'Civilisation' to give them the backdrop to it.

Also, when programmes like 'Horizon' are so superficial, 'World In Action' has bitten the dust and 'Panorama' has gone down the over-simplification route, small wonder that young people lack the cognitive ability to make sense of the news, and being able to discriminate fact from fiction and comprehend the background to stories from Africa, Asia & the Middle East.

My concern is that the BBC will use this as an excuse to indulge in yet more populist pap like 'StoryFix', instead of addressing the real issue which is to give a deeper understanding of our world, not a superficial, broad-brush view which has breadth but absolutely no depth.

  • 27.
  • At 11:33 AM on 06 Jul 2007,
  • Alan wrote:

I agree with many of posts regarding the obsession the BBC has with "yoof" and I don't understand why given the population count over 35yoa. The youth of the country are more than catered for by other media. You have to get them to watch TV in the first place, which many don't want to do, there are other important things in their lives.
The press will never be impartial or give a balanced view as long as the likes of Rupert Murdoch are pulling their strings not just on a national but also a global basis.
There was a time when the BBC was viewed as independent until it started pampering to and being manipulated by the government. Hutton was a prime example of that scenario.
There is no simple answer to media impartiality but the BBC should try to achieve as best a balance as possible.

  • 28.
  • At 11:34 AM on 06 Jul 2007,
  • graeme wrote:

I think your example misses the point entirely. Paris Hilton doesn't actually affect anyone's life directly - old or young.

The people that complain about you covering her "story" are those that recognise she is entertainment and not news. Why not take an editorial decision to leave such news items largely to E! Entertainment and focus on the things you cover better than anyone. Hard news and informed opinion.

  • 29.
  • At 11:35 AM on 06 Jul 2007,
  • Steve wrote:

It's all very well people today being more media savvy than years ago. The problem though Rod is that this is in conjunction with several notable downward trends in our society - generally falling standards, shrinking attention spans, and a gradual swing from appealing to intellect to appealing to emotion (the latter something very much led by the tabloid press).

Which is why the BBC faces this constant downward pull. To keep things as accessible as possible.

Effectively, it means making less assumptions about people's level of knowledge, intellectual ability and desire to know about the world. Crediting viewers and listeners with less than they might have had 10, 20, 50 years ago. Not assuming they will necessarily remain engaged throughout the duration of a news bulletin unless it has some other element to appeal to their senses - graphics, choreographed walks to parts of the studio, cosy chit chat between stories, dramatic arm-waving of reporters, overuse of breaking news banners etc etc.

And that's not an indictment on the BBC - it's an indictment on society.

The dilemma as always for the BBC is whether you adjust to this downward trend to continue to make yourselves accountable and relevant to the licence fee payers, or stand your ground as society shifts, maintaining a high standard, but at the expense of being seen by many as high brow and boring.

No doubt ITV news and Sky would become ever more dramatic and sensationalist, and many people would come to accept that as the norm, and the BBC as almost unwatchable.

On the other hand, does a public service broadcaster not have some responsibility for raising standards, reversing the downward pull, the tabloidisation of news? Or is that pull just too strong nowadays?

Either way, I don't think it helps to stereotype people who care about standards or bemoan what's happened to the 6 and 10 as "stuffy".

But I appreciate that it's a difficult and frustrating one to get right.

  • 30.
  • At 11:38 AM on 06 Jul 2007,
  • Aidan wrote:

In the modern consumer-driven media world it is even more important that the BBC remains a reporter of serious, high quality news. If people want "dumbed-down" celebrity news, or biased political journalism a la Fox, then they have a choice of other channels. Our high-quality newspapers are increasingly giving in to pressure to be more relevant to modern audiences, ie dumb-down. The current incarnation of The Times is testament to this. The BBC needs to retain its USP as a broadcaster which is envied the world over for its quality and impartiality. To stick with the theme, I was appalled to turn on Sky's 10pm bulletin a few weeks ago only to see the Breaking News ticker and the first 15 minutes of the bulletin entirely devoted to Paris Hilton being returned to jail, with an eye in the sky following her car and interviews with 'experts' on the scene, giving us minute-by-minute updates on the story. The announcement of yet more British deaths in Iraq was deemed sufficiently inferior to this pointless and irrelevant story to warrant being relegated to second (or possibly third, I can't exactly recall) item on the bulletin, before returning to Hollywood for yet another update. Unfortunately the TV I was watching (I was in Ireland)didn't receive News 24 otherwise I would have changed over.

My point is, in sum, that there are channels out there for people who are not interested in serious impartial news. If people want Heat-magazine style news, then they can watch other channels. The BBC should not feel pressurised to conform by destroying its unique status.

  • 31.
  • At 11:39 AM on 06 Jul 2007,
  • David wrote:

Put simply, I no longer trust the BBC for news.
I find it hard to believe that the BBC is so scared of offending anyone that it often offends the intelligence of the very people who watch the news. I don't need to see flashy graphics, insipid reporters and brightly coloured sets to find the news interesting. What I do require is reporting of the highest standard, not a pandering to political correctness and appealing to the lowest common denominator. We are more intelligent than you think!
It used to be that I thought the BBC news was the one place where I could get news which would spark debate between family, friends and colleagues but now I just think it is a shadow of the fine institution it once was.
It is also ironic that the editor of newsbeat has kicked this debate off, as I find that to have the word news in that title is a complete misnomer. That is certainly one news programme which is designed for the "yoof" culture and only makes itself look crass and stupid. Please treat the "younger generation" with a bit more respect as I'm sure you wanted to be when you were younger!

  • 32.
  • At 11:41 AM on 06 Jul 2007,
  • Ally Ferguson wrote:

Whilst it is impossible to go into much detail and depth on an issue in a thirty minute news slot, there is plenty of scope for this on the 24-hour news channels. For instance, why not screen an hour long documentary, rather than spend that same time showing footage of a near casualty-less derailment in the London Underground, as Sky News did yesterday? Surely that isn't newsworthy on a national programme, or not at least until such time as a passenger sends Sky an image of propane gas lying next to the train? With the news multiscreen option, people would still be able to watch the headlines at any moment during whichever issue happens to be covered in the documentary.

  • 33.
  • At 11:51 AM on 06 Jul 2007,
  • Ladygrumpy wrote:

I have always had doubts about BBC impartiality. Some years ago (pre 1997) there was an item on the TV news regarding new legislation for single parents which the Conservative government was proposing. A lone father was interviewed about how this legislation would adverseley affect him. Absolutely nothing wrong with that - except that he was a Labour member of my local council and, as such, hardly impartial. Ever since then I have been extremely sceptical when 'victims' are wheeled out for our inspection and can't help wondering if they, too, have a hidden agenda.

As regards more background information and news being put into context, I would strongly suggest that people are encouraged to listen to Radio 4 news rather than watching the telly. Because the visuals take up so much time (and the same footage is repeated ad nauseum) the TV coverage is of necessity superficial. In my experience, TV news watchers are often horrified by certain events they see but when I explain why these events are happening (having listened to Radio 4) the answer is almost always, 'Oh, I didn't realise that'. Time constraints are, therefore, affecting partiality.

  • 34.
  • At 11:51 AM on 06 Jul 2007,
  • chris wrote:

What the BBC should be doing just like the newspaper industry as well, is engaging everyone in media. There are too many 'old fashioned' newspaper journalists and indeed, broadcast journalists, who believe they are superior to everyone else.

Journalism is, like technology developing at a rapid pace, and those in the newspaper industry and mainstream should wake up and smell the coffee - citizen journalism and internet journalism, regardless of what these people think is the way forward - and, just like politics, it's time that journalism and politics were run by the people for the people - not by a handful of arrogant old fashioned hacks who cannot face up to change!

  • 35.
  • At 12:04 PM on 06 Jul 2007,
  • Tony Doyle wrote:

Unfortunately, the beeb is in an unwinnable position (damned if you do etc.) What I would say firstly is that the production of the news needs to be improved. Let me explain. Whenever a studio reporter links to the outside presenter, they nearly always start the handover like so (or therabouts).

The police commissioner has just said in his statement "yadda yadda yadda", can you shed any light on this.

Thanks , yes, that's right, the commissioner has just been making a statement where he said...

There is surely no need for this to happen. The audience have already heard it, normally from the police commissioner etc, and then twice after. What we need then is for the "presenters" to have a journalistic style and add to the points with some investigative journalism.
Apart from that gripe, the news on the BBC is still one of the best around. Whereas C4 is slightly better for debating the issues, I think this is because they do have an hour in which to do so. Maybe the BBC needs to put on a prime time current affairs / educational bulletion once a week etc. Newsnight doesn't appeal to the youth (I'm 33), as it is too high brow, and will often discuss things that have no interest to a youth, i.e. Mortgages / Interest Rate rises etc.
With the recent apathy in voting in elections etc, it may be best if the BBC were to consider a series, that in replace of political education lessons in school, could be shown to encourage our youth to participate more, and discover that the system is not always against them.

  • 36.
  • At 12:07 PM on 06 Jul 2007,
  • Andy wrote:

There's a problem with always putting forward the other point of view. The classic example is the MMR story where we were continually barraged with messages from JABS that MMR wasn't safe every time there was more proof that it was.
It's not an easy balance to manage, but perhaps more consideration should be given to a pressure group's motives before they're invited to comment as "the other point of view".
Surely an already impartial, peer-reviewed clinical trial should be given more weight than a group who stands to gain financially if this research is discredited.

  • 37.
  • At 12:11 PM on 06 Jul 2007,
  • Jez Lawrence wrote:

I have said any number of times that what the public are interested in is most certainly not always (or even usually) what's in the public interest. Polictical parties the world over rely on this to distract the public from real issues (I don't mean this in any kind of conspiracy leaning way though I'm sure that happens as well, I mean its just sort of a given state of affairs that the political classes take advantage of when they can). I'm all in favour of more background and context setting - but it has to be in a clearly delineated format - comment, conjecture and opinion should not be part of 'news' they should be clearly marked up as what they are - opinion. News presenters and reporters should deliver facts - both sides of the story at all times, but facts nonetheless (reporting that one side of the argument beleives x y or z is a fact. Saying whether the reporter thinks they have a point or not is opinion). And for goodness sake - celebrities are simply not important unless they are *doing* something important, and that doesn't include minor criminal offences or who's marrying who, unless somehow that marriage/offence/whatever is likely to directly affect large numbers of people on a level other than emotional. E.g. Bill Gates donating millions to AIDS charities is very newsworthy. Angelina Jolie adopting random children from the third world is pretty newsworthy. Pete Doherty on drugs is not remotely newsworthy unless he hurts someone other than himself in the process and by simply mentioning it you're giving his behaviour airtime, even if you're condeming it - which you never do.

I'm just tired of getting half an hour of headlines and 30 second reports on fairly minor issues instead of detailed reporting on important stuff.

The analysis/opinion parts of your news coverage ought to happen behind the scenes and be used to inform what stories are actually covered and how much airtime is given. At the moment that seems to involve someone saying 'what will increase our viewing figures?' instead of 'what issues are of significant economic, social or international impact'. Celebrity news, contrary to popular belief, does not have significant social or economic impact except where it concerns the sale of certain categories of magazine or advertising revenue, neither of which the BBC has to worry about - so why cover it, except as an analysis piece on how the obsession with Celebrity culture is affecting the minds and attitudes of our citizens.

  • 38.
  • At 12:14 PM on 06 Jul 2007,
  • Stuart wrote:

Since when has the bbc been politically impartial ?.
Every program or news report always shows immigrants, gypsies and ethic minority's in a sympathetic light whereas anyone who is at the opposite end of those spectrum's, eg:immigration officials, the bnp or just plain ordinary people who don't want to live close to gypsies or ethic communities are ALWAYS portrayed as bad nasty people who's views should be ignored. The bbc is so liberally bias it's almost fascist in it's behaviour to anyone who has a different opinion to that of the liberal intelligentsia.
The press must share the blame here as they stoke the fires of separatism but then jump up and down shouting racist at anyone who speaks out regarding these issues.
Give the bnp is air time, the green party are often called upon to give their opinion!.
I don't like the views of all these radical Muslims but I still have to listen to their opinions being rammed down my throat from my tv screen and then have to listen to the appeasist politicos telling me that I must respect the views held by these communities, well even up the debate, you might not like what you hear but that's called democracy.
It could also be a reason why voting numbers are in decline in general elections, as the silent majority feel that their views are just not represented because the majority of people get thier information about the country from the bbc which is absolutely loathed to show any opinion other than it's own liberalist view.
I rarely watch the bbc anymore as it has alienated me politically and intellectually
The bbc is political correctness personified.

I agree with Tim Porter.
As a discerning viewer, I watch ONLY Ch 4 news. Night after night, Jon Snow and his band of men and women pound out the news, digest it, cogitate it and present it.
I am not for watching highly paid newsreaders (on all the other three channels) who read off the autocue, and who, most times sound as if they dont know what they are reading or understanding. Asking set piece questions from studio is, in addition, annoying.

  • 40.
  • At 01:08 PM on 06 Jul 2007,
  • Tim wrote:

Just as politicians shouldn't take all the blame for distrust in politics so the BBC should not be blamed for young people's lack of interest. Some things in this world just are important and if young people, or anyone else, can't see that it is their failing. What the BBC can be blamed for is dumbing down its output - BBC 6 o'clock news is a prime example of this. More time is spent repeating the headlines then investigating stories, and when stories are investigated it is invariably done from a 'consumer' stand point. And can we please stop vox pops - I'm not interested in what someone who is completely ignorant of a subject thinks of it.

  • 41.
  • At 01:10 PM on 06 Jul 2007,
  • Tony Bryer wrote:

IMO the biggest turn-off as far as TV news is concerned is the utterly daft policy of injecting noise over news stories with the aim - I suppose - of heightening the interest and drama. To whoever is responsible for this, it doesn't; rather it just irritates and hinders comprehension. I'd rather take my news from Radio 4, a serious newspaper or the internet.

  • 42.
  • At 01:36 PM on 06 Jul 2007,
  • Roger Carr wrote:

This is an intriguing view from the guy behind Newsbeat.

I used to hear it my office every day and it is totally and utterly shallow

If you haven't listened, and I can fully understand why you wouldn't, it is clearly based on the principles that those listening are only doing it because it is on, that any news about anything other than football, pop music or big brother is a legal necessity and that the listeners have an attention span of about 1 minute, if they try hard.

Come on - if believe what you say about young people wanting to be connected and understand the news, don't treat them to this sort of vacuous lightweight effort. They would be better off without and going to a decent newspaper or other BBC outlet instead.

  • 43.
  • At 01:37 PM on 06 Jul 2007,
  • Jo wrote:

I wish everyone would stop treating young people like we're stupid. Please give us a bit of respect. I couldn't care less about Paris Hilton; I care about the issues that are shaping the world I am going to inherit. You do not need to dumb them down for our poor feeble minds, thanks all the same.
Neither do you need to make some hideously embarrassing attempt to get 'down wif da kidz'. We can tell when we're being patronised. I respect politicians for their principles, not for their musical taste. Please don't become the broadcasting equivalent of Arctic Monkey-spouting party leaders desperate to appeal to young people who can't make an intelligent, informed decision on important issues. Because (and I know this is a revolutionary idea for some people) we can!
I have great respect for the BBC and watch the Ten O'Clock News most days. On a recent holiday to America, I was horrified at the quality of their news - it was partisan propaganda. I appreciate being given both sides of the issue and allowed to make up my own mind, not being ranted at by the newsreader. Please, please do not become like this in an effort to appeal to 'yoof'.
Treat us with a little respect. Desperate attempts to appeal to young people will just make you look silly. More contextualised, in-depth and detailed discussion of issues please; more showing all sides of the story and giving everyone their say; and less Americanised, dumbed-down, soundbite-driven, biased broadcasting.

  • 44.
  • At 04:17 PM on 06 Jul 2007,
  • John R wrote:

I am confused by Stuart's post (#38) when he says: "anyone who is at the opposite end of those spectrum's, eg:immigration officials, the bnp or just plain ordinary people who don't want to live close to gypsies or ethic communities are ALWAYS portrayed as bad nasty people who's views should be ignored" but then says "The press must share the blame here as they stoke the fires of separatism but then jump up and down shouting racist at anyone who speaks out regarding these issues."

So…Stuart thinks the BBC should show more 'ordinary people' who don't want to live near ethnic minorities and fewer ethnic minorities who don't want to live near 'ordinary people'?

It's no wonder the BBC can't please anyone, when this is the sort of input they get.

  • 45.
  • At 05:05 PM on 06 Jul 2007,
  • missy wrote:

I agree with Jo. Maybe I'm not quite in the 'youth' bracket any more, but I find 'infotainment' and dumbed down news completely infuriating. In fact, I now that I live in the UK I find it hard to stomach BBC News 24's Breakfast instead of BBC World. Breakfast on News 24 is leaning towards infotainment - for example on the day Alan Johnston was released, I watched 10 minutes of guff about the Harry Potter premiere before I even heard Johnston had been freed. This morning, I got treated to a whole discussion panel on Kate Middleton. I can't understand what on earth is so newsworthy about Kate Middleton. If this is what you mean by News for the Youth, spare us! Why would busy young people want to watch stuff like that as they rush out the door to school, uni or work?

As someone said - it's not the content (i.e. impartial, preferably in global context) that needs to be changed, but maybe the presentation. For example I really like the BBC Breakfast podcasts with a daily dose of 10 minutes of the top news stories... although I would have preferred that 9/10 episodes didn't start with a long story about the NHS. Please BBC, don't become Fox News, the kids don't want that either.

I agree with previous posters, Channel 4 news is the best in the business.
I do not want a news which gives an opinion fired into my living room. I would consider that brain washing of the population.I believe that BBC news has already tried that in the politics game and indeed, on some of its political programmes.

  • 47.
  • At 05:43 PM on 06 Jul 2007,
  • Adam wrote:

'Paris Hilton's name only has to cross a newsreader's lips for an outcry of "dumbing down"'.

You say that as if it were in some way unfair!

  • 48.
  • At 07:44 PM on 06 Jul 2007,
  • Sara wrote:

Having seen what passes for news in the US, I would just hate the BBC to go in this direction. I think y'all do a great job putting your own views aside as far as possible. There are lots of people on news teams (Jeremy Paxman, Evan Davies, Fiona Bruce, Nick Robinson) whose politics are pretty clear, reading between the lines, but they really make a very strong attempt to be impartial. And the 'London v. rest of England/Scotland/ Wales/NI' question may be fought out over and over again, but that's healthy. I've seen mistakes on one bulletin quietly corrected on the next bulletin, and apparent biases dealt with by alternative views next time. And sensitive stuff like Israel/Palestine is generally handled with great care- we might prefer it was the way we wanted all the time, but surely it's better the way it is, with both sides being aired and represented as far as possible.

  • 49.
  • At 09:26 PM on 06 Jul 2007,
  • Ryan wrote:

Coming from the US, I use BBC specifically FOR a relatively unbiased source of news. Fox may be entertaining and may sell more ads if that is really what's important, but I want to know the TRUTH - capital T - Truth from my news. Do NOT bend to this idiotic idea of turning journalism into opinion-making. That's sick and wrong.

  • 50.
  • At 09:32 PM on 06 Jul 2007,
  • Robert wrote:

I agree that BBC needs to change. This pandering to 'enetertainment' style stories is pathetic. Paris Hilton contributes nothing to society, so why does society focus on her? If I want to hear about 'young hollywood', I'll watch E! Entertainment. But the I do resent the implacation that all young people care about such stories. I just earned to the right to vote and as my previous comment illustrated, I'm not so superficial.

As for how the BBC can improve the quality of broadcast, instead of re-hashing the same headlines and interviews, preform some analysis, even if its limited due to time constrants. The news presenters should preform as mediators while displaying multiple viewpoints, as everyone opinion is important and valid. That's the glory of democracy.

  • 51.
  • At 12:24 AM on 07 Jul 2007,
  • David wrote:

I agree that robust debate and impartial coverage is much better than editorial masquerading as news, which is what the majority of US cable news is. However, your placement of Fox News at the (by implication, more extreme) right of a spectrum with the Daily Express on it is slightly comical. And it is this culture, that views Fox News - which IS indeed home to the most robust debate, most liberal talking heads, most African American contributors - that explains perfectly why, despite good intentions, the BBC's version of impartiality is often somewhat to the left.

Well said, Welsh dog (26), and I also like Channel 4 news.


John R (44),

Well said, that man!
Houb Salaam
07/07/2007 at 11:05:33 GMT

  • 54.
  • At 11:57 PM on 07 Jul 2007,
  • Christine wrote:

As a young person and someone who relies on the BBC as the most constant source of news - the world news rss feed is on my LiveJournal Friends page - I have to agree that at least the BBC's internet news coverage is terribly boring. There seems to be no effort at all made to make it into something one can care about, we're just presented the bare facts of a story, end. Then again, maybe it is not the purpose of an internet news portal to give you food for thought; to get background stories or editorials is what most people read the paper or watch tv news for after all.
I, however, prefer the internet as a source of news, and neither the BBC or any other British or German free news site I know of have what I'd call engaging news. I've come to terms with the fact that I'll only get the boring facts of a story, not the full thing.
For that, I have to be content with the Today and File on Four radio podcasts - certainly accessible to younger people if terribly aggressive at times - and reading the various BBC blogs. (Example: Mark Mardell's excellent recent post on Poland's role within the EU was food for thought for a whole day, and not necessarily because I agree with all he wrote. He poked at both sides, never really saying who was right or wrong, and then left off in a way that just made me wonder the whole day what my own opinion actually was. This is what I want from news coverage.)
Especially the possibility of also reading the various readers' opinions (when I have the time) makes the format of news coverage via blogs so special, and after five years of reading non-professional journalists' blogs covering news subjects, I'm glad that I discovered the BBC has, so to speak, gone blog.
I don't believe the younger generation is not interested in news as such, rather that younger people just become annoyed sometimes at the lack of interactivity when the rest of our world is much easier to participate in than, say, phoning up the BBC to make clear your displeasure at the way coverage about Afghanistan is handled.
I love impartial news, and I depend on the BBC to at least try to stay impartial. The key to making the news more interesting can certainly not lie in making them less impartial - you guys just have to find a way to make us care (maybe have a look at why some radio news and blogs work on young people when the tv and internet news apparently don't?). And it's your job to do that, however hard that's going to be - I resent the implication that it's somehow the young people's fault if we are less well informed. It's not like we're any different, lazier or more stupid than the young people of 30 years ago.
Neither do you have to necessarily try to make us relate to every single news item - nobody living in the relative safety of a UK home is ever able to actually relate to what it's like to live in a warzone - so please don't even think about dumbing it down by trying to make us relate by force. Nothing is more boring than a badly made Day In The Life Of [...] story that's obviously meant to make me weep for how hard life is elsewhere but just leaves me numb and feeling bad about not feeling worse.
Stay impartial (or become even more impartial where you aren't), present as many sides of a story as you have the time/space for without coming down on one side, ask difficult questions and insist on answers, and try not sounding like a textbook but a human being while you're doing so. And rest assured that even young people know that that's not easy.

  • 55.
  • At 09:39 PM on 09 Jul 2007,
  • Paul wrote:

just give us the facts, im sure we can work out the grey areas ourselves, well most of us.
i can agree that it must be a bit of a struggle, but thats what happens if you stay in the middle. swing with absolute facts, why not, if its the truth.

as for ofcoms crusade i dont agree. the younger viewers nowadays, they have much bigger options of what to do, than i did 20 years back. and i didnt like the news then, but now i find it interesting, thats my opinion, its a grown up thing.

  • 56.
  • At 03:30 PM on 11 Jul 2007,
  • mel wrote:

'I think what young audiences want is robust, interesting, passionate debate about stories...'
Pity you didn't add in the qualifiers: 'truth-seeking' and 'factual'. Young people have a greater capacity for facts and context than you credit them for. Young and old absorbed the fact that they've been lied to since 2001 - (Shock 'n Awe, Yellowcake, Downing Street Memo, etcetera) - and have lost trust in journalism. John Pilger is a growing hero because he is truly an exception.

  • 57.
  • At 05:34 PM on 11 Jul 2007,
  • Peter Galbavy wrote:

I read the other comments with interest and agree with many. What's important is firstly context but actually, what is most important is not impartiality - because as others have said that really doesn't exist - but rather balance.

If the BBC can present a balanced viewpoint of current affairs and put it in context so that viewers and listeners coming to a report cold can at least understand soming about the background then I think you're winning.

This post is closed to new comments.

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.