THE BLOG
25/02/2015 12:17 GMT | Updated 26/04/2015 06:59 BST

Media Coverage of Politics Needs to Change

With a few months still to go before Election Day, the challenge for the media is how to keep people interested. Just as the politicians carefully map out and plan their announcements, the media too is looking at the coming weeks and months and trying to maintain their share of audience. The trouble is too many people are just not interested.

Listening to a discussion with students on the Today programme (20 February) illustrated the point perfectly. Their comments included 'they don't seem to appeal to the younger people', 'don't really watch it', 'David Cameron hasn't kept me in his interests, Nick Clegg has lied, and then Labour hasn't come out to say anything about student tuition fees or anything regarding us so I'm probably going to abstain.'

There has been a collective failure to attract a younger audience to politics and current affairs. This is in very large part the fault of the parties themselves. Trying to blame the media would be foolish and wrong. They do, however, have a contribution to make.

Question Time does well with around 2.7m viewers and Channel 4 News does consistently well at around 650,000 to 700,000. Newsnight has received a boost since Evan Davis took over but did fall to as low at around 600,000 before that time.

But now add in very different viewing habits especially the rise of 'catch-up' and traditional political TV looks designed with a more traditional viewer in mind.

On BBC Two, Inside the Commons at least opened up Parliament and should be essential viewing for anyone studying British politics or with an interest in seeing what really happens. However, according to MediaTel, the third episode entitled Party Games 'sounded much more fun that it was' (their italics)! So mass viewing it is not.

Podcasts are not as popular here as they say in the US because our radio coverage is considered to be much better. Radio 4 was made some excellent programmes recently by Nick Robinson, Can Democracy Work, and Jonathan Powell, Read My Lips: Why Politicians Speak The Way They Do. Again, these do not move traditional formats and, it could be suggested, most of the Taking Liberties - The Democracy Season had a very BBC 4 / Radio 4 feel to it.

They are though exceptions. Charlie Brooker and Rory Bremner both feature in the Top 30 programmes for BBC2 so satire obviously still works. Part of the reason why Spitting Image was so successful was that it brought politicians to life, not always very flatteringly. So maybe the promised Newzoids programme will help will politicians come to life again.

YouTube is often used as a source of information as well as entertainment, particularly by young people. Although the rise of the YouTuber has seen individuals vlogging from their bedrooms amass vast amount of subscribers, the topics that seem to attract the most attention are lifestyle and fashion rather than politics. It might be that the audience isn't there but it equally could be that there is not enough tailored content for social media relating to politics.

Politics needs the media's help more than ever to rebuild faith in democratic institutions and to get people voting again. The Scottish Referendum showed that a wider group of ages can be enthused. It is entirely possible.

With citizenship on the national curriculum, which 'should foster pupils' keen awareness and understanding of democracy, government and how laws are made and upheld' it should be hoped that interest and engagement will increase but that does not yet appear to be happening. Initiatives like the Youth parliament exist but that assumes an existing interest in current affairs and politics rather than creating one.

This is not a new problem. Getting younger people to watch politics has been recognised as a problem for a long time. There are some obvious examples - lack of format variation, similarity in terms of presenters, and a lack of diversity. All have been slowly challenged but unless the opportunities of the new media outlets can be grabbed, we will be having the same discussions in another ten years. If social media and other outlets have democratised activism and put power in the hands of the people then its role in democratising democracy needs to be grabbed.

Alternatively maybe we should all just watch An Idiot's Guide to Politics.