Channel 4 and their influence on young voters
In an effort reminiscent of Harold Wilson’s 1964 ploy to ensure that Labour voters voted when he asked the BBC to not air the episode of Steptoe and Son that would normally have been broadcast on Election Night. All because Wilson was “so alarmed that Labour voters might prefer Steptoe and Son to a trip to the polling station” (Taylor, 2010), the UK TV channel E4 took it into their hands to help young voters vote in 2015.
They decided that they would suspend all their programming from the time that polls opened until 7pm. The idea was, as the UK’s “most popular digital channel for young people” (Plunkett, 2018), 16 to 34 year olds would be more likely to vote if they were reminded to and had fewer distractions…such as popular television programmes to watch!
E4’s parent Channel 4 also took it onto themselves to run an online campaign to encourage young voters to turn out.
Why don’t they vote?
Channel 4’s intentions were laudable. But the question has to be asked…what do so few young voters turn out and actually vote?
It seems that economics and neo liberal economies have affected how young people react to politics and voting in general.
Young people do not seem to receive a political ‘education’ in the same way as they may have done in the past. Previously family, school and the workplace would have all combined to help mould a politically conscious individual who was ready to have an opinion and vote when required. And, was also encouraged to do so by their peers.
Ware thinks that “The school-to-work transition has thus become more protracted, more complicated, more risky and more diverse in trajectory and outcomes than was the case in the more relatively standardised, homogenous and secure model of the social democratic period” (WAYNE et al., 2010). And he could be right.
Unemployed? Then you may have no idea!
Unemployment could also lead to fewer chances associate with others who may influence and help one form a political opinion. And as the UK’s poverty levels start to stretch across the generations, with many generations of a single family all unemployed at the same time, is it little wonder that Channel 4 felt that it could help voter turnout.
The lack of influencers in a young voter’s life has been identified as a potential problem by the Electoral Commission. They and the National Union of Students worked together in 2015 to “urge students and young people who have already registered to vote to encourage their non-registered friends and family to now do the same, by sharing messages and photos on social media.”
The Electoral Commission in 2017 again looked at the issue of enticing young 16-17 voters to register to vote in local elections in Scotland with a partnership with Snapchat. This campaign was successful so was rolled out nationwide soon after.
Social Media replacing family and work life
In conclusion, if social media is now becoming the medium that allows an exchange of political opinions and therefore is the medium that ferments and allows political views to propagate where does that leave the traditional view of the ‘life cycle’?
In the past it was assumed that engagement with politics would increase as an individual moves through various stages in life and matures. This however could change if social media messages are managed in such a way that a subliminal almost imperceptible push towards politicising the young voter happens.
Is this a good thing? Potentially. At least for the Spin Doctors who are able to crack this social media code and engage with the so called dis-enfranchised youth.
Electoralcommission.org.uk. (2015). Electoral Commission | Elections watchdog teams up with NUS and other youth organisations to say to students #RegAFriend. [online] Available at: https://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/i-am-a/journalist/electoral-commission-media-centre/news-releases-campaigns/elections-watchdog-teams-up-with-nus-and-other-youth-organisations-to-say-to-students-regafriend [Accessed 14 May 2018].
Electoralcommission.org.uk. (2018). Electoral Commission | Electoral Commission partners with Snapchat in new bid to reach Scotland’s youngest voters. [online] Available at: https://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/i-am-a/journalist/electoral-commission-media-centre/news-releases-campaigns/electoral-commission-partners-with-snapchat-in-new-bid-to-reach-scotlands-youngest-voters [Accessed 14 May 2018].
Electoralcommission.org.uk. (2018). Electoral Commission | 18 year olds encouraged to “use your age wisely” in new campaign to tackle low voter registration levels. [online] Available at: https://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/i-am-a/journalist/electoral-commission-media-centre/news-releases-campaigns/18-year-olds-encouraged-to-use-your-age-wisely-in-new-campaign-to-tackle-low-voter-registration-levels [Accessed 14 May 2018].
Furness, H. (2015). E4 shuts down to encourage young viewers to get off sofa and vote. [online] Telegraph.co.uk. Available at: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/media/11555366/E4-shuts-down-to-encourage-young-viewers-to-get-off-sofa-and-vote.html [Accessed 14 May 2018].
Plunkett, J. (2018). Channel 4 to shut E4 on day of general election to encourage youth vote. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/media/2015/apr/22/channel-4-e4-general-election-youth-vote [Accessed 14 May 2018].
Taylor, D. (2010). DJ Taylor: Why Harold Wilson hoiked Steptoe off the box on election. [online] The Independent. Available at: https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/commentators/dj-taylor-why-harold-wilson-hoiked-steptoe-off-the-box-on-election-night-1935347.html [Accessed 14 May 2018].
WAYNE, M., Petley, J., murray, C. and Henderson, L. (2010). Television news, politics and young people. 1st ed. [Place of publication not identified]: PALGRAVE MACMILLAN, p.38.
Wayne, M., PETLEY, M., Murray, J., Murray, C. and Henderson, L. (2010). Television news, politics and young people. 1st ed. Basingstoke [England]: Palgrave Macmillan, p.38.