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Re-imagining citizenship: young audiences’ engagement with BBC Newsround

Carter, Cynthia, Messenger Davies, Maire, Allan, Stuart and Mendes, Kaitlynn 2010. Re-imagining citizenship: young audiences’ engagement with BBC Newsround. Presented at: IAMCR Annual Conference, Braga, Portugal, 18-22 July.

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This paper explores the results from the authors’ empirical study investigating how young people engage with the British Broadcasting Corporation programme Newsround (via both its television and website provision). Newsround is currently the only news programme aimed at young people (ages eight to twelve) broadcast in the UK. Given its public service remit to assist young people’s personal development as citizens, we were interested in finding out how they view themselves in relation to the adult world of news events; how they negotiate the norms and values of the news reporting of issues relevant to them; and how new forms of interactivity may be used to further encourage their civic identities. To this end, our study employed questionnaires, video diaries and group-based activities involving 214 eight to fifteen year olds in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland over a two-year period. Our research discovered that young people overwhelmingly see themselves as ‘citizens in the making’ (Buckingham, 2000) keenly interested in the world around them. In comparing and contrasting Newsround with adult news alternatives, participants identified a range of evaluative criteria informing their negotiation of its news reports. Amongst these points of connection was the perception that the programme represents an important space for the reaffirmation of an identity politics whereby young people’s views are taken seriously on their own terms. This was particularly the case for young people in the region/nations - Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Corresponding concerns about global issues (e.g., global warming or the war in Iraq), need to be handled in a manner that affords opportunities for social engagement. Participants shared a range of ideas about how the programme and the website could be improved, with specific suggestions made with an eye to enhancing the alignment of the priorities of journalism with the needs of young people. This latter dimension was more fully explored in a second phase of the study, which revolved around interviews and group activities with twelve to thirteen year olds in the same four regions of the UK (many of whom felt that Newsround no longer catered to them, yet were not ready to make the transition to adult news bulletins). Working with young people in this type of research always has its benefits and challenges. In addition to discussing the key results from our study and their possible implications for policymaking, we would also like to provide practicable information about our use of different methodological frameworks. Several of our more creative strategies – such as the use of video diaries as well as collaborative exercises concerning the future improvement of Newsround and the possible development of a news service for teenagers – proved to be successful in facilitating the involvement our participants in sharing the aims and objectives of our research. We will offer an assessment of their relative strengths and limitations, including feedback from the BBC, which may be helpful for researchers conducting similar studies elsewhere.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Journalism, Media and Culture
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Last Modified: 04 Jun 2017 03:09

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