BBC's politics revamp fails to win young audience

The BBC has abandoned its attempt to engage younger viewers in traditional Westminster politics after failing to attract the under-45s to a series of new political programmes.

The BBC has abandoned its attempt to engage younger viewers in traditional Westminster politics after failing to attract the under-45s to a series of new political programmes.

Research conducted by the BBC has revealed that five new shows commissioned in response to a wide-ranging review of its political output have not succeeded in boosting the proportion of younger viewers.

Audience figures for the BBC's political programmes have risen overall since the revamp, but the new viewers are older people who were already interested in politics.

Instead of trying to interest younger viewers in daily events at Westminster, the BBC is now trying to attract them through shows such as the BBC2 docu-drama series If, which takes a futuristic look at single issues such as obesity and the power supply.

"Westminster is not the way to appeal to younger viewers - shows like If are," Fran Unsworth, the BBC's head of political programmes, said.

"Although we've increased the audiences to new programmes like The Politics Show and This Week, we've singularly failed to shift the demographic," she added.

"The politics research we did shows that young people are very interested in single issues. What we do at BBC Westminster is Westminster-based programmes, and young people are not particularly attracted by having their issues presented through that prism."

The BBC went through a lengthy tender process last year to commission a new political programme aimed at young people, after a review by the former Newsnight editor Sian Kevill which showed that younger viewers felt disengaged from politics. It eventually decided on Weekend, a show presented by the former Today programme editor Rod Liddle, which promised to be lively and informal, but was described by one senior insider as having a "design by committee" feel about it.

Politicians appearing without their jackets against a bright white set decorated with furniture in primary colours failed to appeal to the target audience, as did the time slot - nine o'clock on a Saturday morning.

The show was scrapped after just six weeks last summer. Viewing figures dipped as low as 400,000 and never rose above 600,000. Not only did the programme fail to attract as many viewers as had been hoped, only 36 per cent of those who did watch the show were under 45.

It was followed last autumn by The Sharp End, a humorous current affairs show hosted by Clive Anderson, which also only lasted for six episodes, and only had a 36 per cent share of under-45s in its audience.

"It wasn't bad, but given that they were aimed at under-45s we would have hoped for 50 per cent," Ms Unsworth said.

One of the other innovations to emerge from the year-long, £100,000 politics review was the replacement of the Sunday lunchtime programme On The Record with The Politics Show, a more informal format fronted by Jeremy Vine.

The Politics Show has increased the overall number of weekly viewers by 200,000 to 1.3 million, but only 28 per cent of those are under 45 - the same percentage of younger viewers who watched On The Record.

Timing is a crucial factor in attracting a younger audience. Ms Unsworth admits that it may have been a mistake to schedule Weekend early on Saturday morning - a slot usually occupied by cartoons. "I don't think the issue is that everybody's in bed, but it's a very, very competitive youth market at that time," she said.

This Week, the political discussion show presented by Andrew Neil, which follows Question Time on BBC1, is more popular with younger viewers, who make up 35 per cent of its audience of one million, because of its late-night slot, Ms Unsworth said.

The Daily Politics, a late morning show which replaced Westminster Live on BBC2, has not been so successful, attracting just 200,000 viewers, of whom just 29 per cent are under 45.

The BBC now plans to bring more single issues, such as the tuition fees debate, into The Politics Show and This Week, and make more use of the internet to engage under-45s directly with democracy.

THE SHOWS THAT LACKED APPEAL

The Politics Show

The decision to replace the BBC1 Sunday lunchtime show On The Record presented by news veteran John Humphrys with The Politics Show fronted by a tie-less Jeremy Vine against a more informal backdrop has won an extra 200,000 viewers, but not in the elusive under-45 demographic.

Weekend

The BBC2 "yoof" politics show presented by the former Today programme editor Rod Liddle promised to be lively and informal, but politicians stripping off their jackets at nine o'clock on a Saturday morning didn't appeal to the under-45s and it was scrapped after just six weeks last summer.

The Sharp End

Clive Anderson fronted the humorous BBC2 current affairs show that filled the 9.15am Saturday slot for six weeks in autumn 2003. The "witty and amusing" format looked at four issues each programme and dissected the stories of the previous week, but it has not been recommissioned.

Suggested Topics
News
Russia Today’s new UK channel began broadcasting yesterday. Discussions so far have included why Britons see Russia as ‘the bad guy’
tv

New UK station Russia Today gives a very bizarre view of Britain

News
John Moore inspired this Coca Cola Christmas advert
people

News
people

Top Gear presenter is no stranger to foot-in-mouth controversy

Arts and Entertainment
Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter films
books

New essay by JK Rowling went live on Pottermore site this morning

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Jamie Oliver’s version of Jollof rice led thousands of people to post angry comments on his website
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Vividly drawn: Timothy Spall in Mike Leigh’s ‘Mr Turner’
film

Review: Mike Leigh's biopic is a rambling, rich character study

Arts and Entertainment
glastonbury
Arts and Entertainment
Shelley Duvall stars in Stanley Kubrick's The Shining
film
Arts and Entertainment
Shock of the news: Jake Gyllenhaal in ‘Nightcrawler’
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £100,000: SThree: If you would like to work fo...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Uncapped Commission £100k +: SThree: Trainee Recru...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £30000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Do you feel you sales role is li...

Sales Executive - Exhibitions/Sponsorship

£27-32k + commission: Savvy Media Ltd: Sponsorship selling and moving into an ...

Day In a Page

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes