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Last Updated: Monday, 15 November, 2004, 15:03 GMT
Give me our news, not yours
By Ian Jolly
Series Producer, NewsWatch programme

Does TV news do enough to make younger viewers want to watch? Teenager Richard Salkeld wrote in to the NewsWatch programme saying he wasn't sure it often catered for people his age. He was invited to come to the BBC to find out more.

Prince Charles
BBC viewer Richard Salkeld is not amused by stories about the Royal family

First-year Leeds University student Richard is a keen news viewer but has very definite views on what he wants.

"I do like a balance of news," the 18-year-old said.

"I like everything from politics to environment stories, science - basically anything that's interesting. I really enjoy quirky stories but also stories that affect young people, like top-up fees, tuition fees.

"Stories on the Royal Family and protests are just not interesting. When you've seen them once, you've seen them all."

Desk jockeys

The style of the news is just as important as the content.

"I quite like it when there's no barriers in terms of presentation, like having a presenter behind a desk," said Richard.

He much prefers a more informal style, such as perching or standing.

"Music is brilliant in news programmes because even if you don't like the story being reported, the music in the background can keep you listening," he said.

Richard is not alone in thinking that the main news programmes are not really appealing to his generation.

But the BBC has for many years targeted its younger audience with specially tailored output, from Newsround to Radio One's Newsbeat.

Eddie Mair and Tazeen Ahmad of BBC Three News
Eddie Mair and Tazeen Ahmad of BBC Three News cater for a younger audience

The latest addition is the BBC Three News at 1900. The digital channel is aimed at 25 to 34-year-olds, offering new comedy, drama and youth-oriented documentaries.

Its news output has been criticised for attracting a tiny audience, but Richard and his friends think it hits the spot.

The programme's editor, Mark Barlex, said it was about getting the right mix of stories, tone and attitude.

"We put a lot of energy and resources into graphics and editing techniques which I think people appreciate because they are used to that sort of thing on other outlets," he explained.

"We are also very specific about what's going to be of interest to our audience."

Audience research

In fact, the BBC puts a lot of effort into trying to find out what its audience wants from it.

With young people, this involves looking at their lifestyles. When are they likely to be watching TV news? Do they watch it at all? Do they prefer to get their news from the web or their mobile?

"It's the BBC's job to try to make the important things appear interesting to all different age groups," said James Holden, research manager for news and current affairs.

Richard thinks there are signs that the news is changing.

"I think the BBC is certainly getting there with programmes like Breakfast - the interaction between the presenters and the banter is really good."

So after his visit behind the scenes, is he more hopeful?

"I still don't feel totally catered for as a young viewer of news," he said.

"I'd like to see greater consultation and involvement with young people so BBC news is really getting the news we want."


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