Young people turn to channel 4 news fix

Jim Gray

Channel 4 News, which saw its audience grow by 34 per cent after the terrorist attacks on the US, attracts a bigger percentage of younger viewers than any other news bulletin, figures released by Barb reveal.

The bulletin clocked up an average audience of 1.3 million viewers between 11 September and the end of December – 34 per cent more than the average during the previous eight months.

While figures for the first three weeks of 2002 showed a 30 per cent drop among 16 to 34 year olds for the channel overall, its news claims to be attracting a bigger percentage of viewers in the 16-to-24 age group than any other bulletin.

Barb figures based on 2001 weekly averages show 24 per cent of the audience for its 7pm programme falls into the younger age group. Next is ITV’s News at Ten, with 21 per cent, followed by the BBC with 18 per cent for its Ten O’Clock News.

Figures for 5 News, which with its more informal approach might expect a younger profile, showed 17 per cent of its audience was in the 16-to-24 age group.

"It’s mildly surprising because it doesn’t tie in with what people expect young people to watch," said Jim Gray, Channel 4 News editor. "We haven’t gone for any tricks but we’ve made sure that the programme is a good watch without compromising journalistic standards. I think a lot of it goes back to the relaunch when we improved production and writing and gave the programme more impact."

Based on the overall average for 2001, when just over 1 million viewers watched the bulletin, the figures show that since the 1999 relaunch audiences are up 26 per cent from 825,000 viewers.

"All news programmes attracted bigger audiences after 11 September, the challenge now is to keep them with us," said Gray. "We seem to have a particularly foreign news-hungry audience and from the e-mails we’ve received, a lot of young people in particular appreciate the programme’s more in-depth approach." The programme is to undergo further change when Kirsty Lang moves to the BBC to join George Alagiah on its digital channel’s BBC4 News.

Reporter Sarah Smith is thought to be in the running to replace Lang, as well as current presenter Samira Ahmed, a former BBC journalist who has worked for the World Service and Newsnight and is currently on mater-nity leave.

By Julie Tomlin

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