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E4 To Be Turned Off On Election Day To Patronise Young People Into Voting

16:22Ciaran McCormick

I am one of the 3.3 million first-time young voters that join the electorate for 2015. We are being targeted by people committed to inspiring us that our vote matters. The television channel E4, which is known primarily for screening re-runs of American sitcoms with young demographics, has just launched its voting initiative.



They plan to turn their channel off entirely between 7am and 7pm to encourage young viewers to leave the house and go and vote. Its intentions are honourable as almost 2 million of these new voters are expected not to vote, denying them the influence that engagement produces and surrendering their stake in the political system and society. However, this particular scheme represents part of the problem, pandering to an over generalised idea of the behaviours of young people and patronising them.
Dan Brooke, Channel 4’s chief marketing and communications officer said: “Less than half of under-25s voted at the last election so we’ve engaged the most powerful weapon that we have at our disposal to try and boost that number – switching off their favourite TV channel for the day.”


The shutdown is patronising to young people and is actually likely to turn them off of voting. It suggests that young people do not vote because they are lazy and stuck to their television screens. Young people deserve the respect that other voters are treated with. It also presumes a great deal of arrogance on the part of E4 that it claims that its shows are so compelling that they are responsible for the disillusionment that young people feel.

We are the generation faced with debts approaching £50,000 for our university education and a bleak future because of the austerity agenda. Our voices are not heard and the young candidates standing for MPs in 2015 are treated in the media either as a joke or an experiment. Issues that face young people such as housing and tuition are not given respect by politicians and young people are shut out of serious debates on other issues. Politicians serve the people that vote for them, which has traditionally given disproportionate influence to elderly people, creating a vicious circle as young people are distanced from politics.

These are the real reasons that we don't vote, not because we are glued to a television screen. This campaign merely sends the message that young people need to be coerced, punished and patronised into voting. Besides, if a repeat of The Big Bang Theory is cancelled, we are more likely to watch it on Netflix than suddenly be inspired by politics.

Some of the language they use is completely inappropriate for people aged 18 and over, dumbing it down to try and appeal to this generalised idea of young people. For example, this sounds like language for a 13 year old rather than a college, apprentice or university aged student: "It's not that difficult these days to do a bit of research. Check out candidates’ or parties’ websites and scan some of the leaflets they’ve stuffed through your letterbox to see what they’re pledging to do for you. If that seems a bit too much like homework, talk to friends and family."


However, one of the main problems with this shutdown is that it undermines the excellent substantive work that Channel 4 and its digital sister channels have been putting into energising the youth vote. They are distributing a huge amount of information online about the election, sending text reminders to people that opt-in and are holding a Youth Leader's Debate. Whilst the stunt is designed to give publicity to these other services, they should have chosen a strategy that underlines the value of youth participation in politics rather than annoy them by cancelling their entertainment and telling them they are lazy. 

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