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Thursday, 28 February, 2002, 05:54 GMT
Politics 'a turn-off' for under-45s
Prime Minister' Tony Blair at question time in the Commons
Many people do not watch or listen to political issues
Many people under the age of 45 are disillusioned with politics and believe politicians are "crooks", "liars" and "a waste of time", a BBC survey has found.

Political coverage is seen as white, middle-class, middle-aged men arguing with other white, middle-class, middle-aged men in a "secret shared language", according to research published on Thursday.


It is incumbent on the BBC... to take a leading role in trying to increase people's engagement in the political process

Richard Sambrook
Director of BBC News

Rock star Bob Geldof is closer to many people's idea of a political hero than most politicians, although some identify with former Tory minister Ann Widdecombe and former Labour minister Mo Mowlam.

To counter this lack of interest, the BBC has set up teams to develop new ideas in specific areas to boost its political coverage and encourage viewing by a younger audience.

Richard Sambrook, director of BBC News, said: "Politicians and the media have known for some time that there's a lack of involvement and engagement in politics.

Lack of interest

"The research we publish today illustrates just how serious that problem is.

"It is incumbent on the BBC, as a public service broadcaster to take a leading role in trying to increase people's engagement in the political process and democratic debate."

Figures show news viewing has been declining since 1993, with the numbers of viewers under the age of 44 dropping by a quarter.

Many young people do not watch or listen to any political coverage at all.

"The research shows that people are not beginning to get interested when they reach their 30s and 40s," said Mr Sambrook.

"This demographic wave of disengagement could soon mean political coverage is largely watched by those in their 50s and older."

Many people questioned in the research, conducted by agency TRBI, found politics difficult to relate to their everyday lives and felt that elections were a poor, archaic way of expressing choices or opinions.

Nearly 40% of respondents said politicians were "crooks", "out for themselves", "liars", "didn't care about ordinary people" and "a waste of time".

'Too elitist'

Some 37% felt they were "powerless", "unsupported" and "unrepresented".

They also believed the media's coverage of politics was "too elitist" and humour or drama should be used to explore the world of politicians and politics.

They also felt that the media focused too much on scandal and trivia around politicians rather than issues.

The BBC New Politics Initiative, led by Sian Kevill, will use the research in a bid to bring new programme ideas on to TV screens by the end of the year.

Teams developing new ideas for BBC political coverage will focus on uniting different parts of the BBC to tackle politics, appealing to the under-45s and using drama and online services.

"We want to refresh political coverage with innovative and creative new thinking," said Ms Kevill.

The BBC is the UK's largest broadcaster of political news and current affairs across television.

See also:

26 Feb 02 | TV and Radio
Davies' vision of BBC's future
26 Feb 02 | TV and Radio
New regulation plans for BBC
15 Mar 01 | UK Politics
MPs want more BBC regulation
08 Aug 01 | UK Politics
Low turnout cut Labour's landslide
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