Young people shun TV news bulletins for online sources

Nine in 10 young people get their news online, according to a report, as the under-25s turn away from scheduled television bulletins.

Only 61 per cent of people aged 16-24 get their news from TV, compared with 89 per cent who follow events online.

Consumption of television news is falling fastest in the 12-15 age group. While 57 per cent of children in that bracket say they are interested in news, 35 per cent get it via BBC One and BBC Two, down from 41 per cent last year and 45 per cent in 2018.

On the current trajectory, YouTube will overtake BBC television next year as the primary current affairs provider in this age group. It is used for news by 33 per cent of 12-15-year-olds, up from 30 per cent last year and 27 per cent in 2018.

The findings come from Ofcom’s News Consumption Survey. It found that television remains the most-used platform (79 per cent) when all age groups are taken into account, followed by the internet (73 per cent).

BBC One remains the most-used news source across all platforms, followed by ITV, Facebook and the BBC website. Television news is most popular among the 65+ age group.

Among adults using social media to deliver the news, 12 per cent used TikTok, an increase from 4 per cent in 2020.

The study paid particular attention to the habits of 12- to 15-year-olds, who cite music, celebrities and the environment as their biggest interests when it comes to news. One in five said they were most interested in news about sport and sports personalities.

“These children primarily engage with news to understand what’s going on around them, to learn new things and to be made to think.

“Being ‘too boring’ remains the key reason for lack of interest in news, followed by ‘all news sounding the same’ and a ‘lack of relevance’,” the report said.

Eight per cent of children in this group said they did not watch the news because they found it “too upsetting”.

Children considered their families to be the most truthful news sources, and social media to be the least truthful.

The move by young viewers away from television news appears to support comments made by Fran Unsworth, the BBC’s head of news and current affairs, who suggested last year that it would disappear within a decade in favour of iPlayer bulletins.

Ms Unsworth said there may be one bulletin per day on television, either the News at Ten or the News at Six, but no more than that. 

She said that the BBC was “transitioning to a different model for young people, which is all around the smartphone and the tablet”.

However, her opposite number at ITV, Michael Jermey, predicted that bulletins would “remain a key part of the mainstream schedules – on ITV, at least”.

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