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20 July, 2004

BBC dumps youth-focused politics programmes

As reported in The Times yesterday, the BBC has abandoned its mission to make political programmes aimed at a young audience.

New programmes, including The Sharp End hosted by Clive Anderson, were attracting a majority of viewers over the age of 45. These are now being quietly shelved.

“Refocusing political programming was never going to be achieved with a few snazzy studio make-overs, fashion conscious presenters and sound-bite dominated features”, says Tony Breslin, Chief Executive of the Citizenship Foundation.

“At a time of charter renewal and with engagement in the formal institutions of politics at an all time low, it is vital that the BBC devotes its energies, as a public service broadcaster, to a genuine and wide-ranging renewal of political and news broadcasting."

Abandoning such a project "after a couple of shaky pilots", he says, “hardly demonstrates the commitment that the BBC will need to see such a task through; a commitment that we deserve and have rightly come to expect.”

However, Fran Unsworth, the BBC’s head of political programmes, indicated that the Corporation is rethinking its strategy:

“Young people will not be drawn to a programme which is labelled politics”, she said.

“Politics has to be taken out of the Westminster village and presented in an imaginative and issue-based manner to attract a younger audience.”

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