Opinion: Why we need to stop patronising young people in the mainstream news

Poppy Bullen is Global Communications Officer at Restless Development

This week I have been shocked by what I’ve seen in the UK media. News anchors have treated young representatives with little respect and little interest in what they have to say.

Earlier in the week a young woman called Kirsty Archer went viral after Twitter was shocked at the way Sky News anchor Jayne Secker treated her during a live interview about Kirsty’s recent eviction under the section 21 law, which gives landlords unfair powers to evict tenants. Kirsty was insulted and patronised live on TV and given little chance to defend herself.


Just days later, I witnessed another young representative degraded and insulted live on air.  Robin Boardman-Pattison, a campaigner with UK climate campaign The Rebellion Extinction, was invited to speak on Sky news to explain why activists of all ages have taken over London monuments to call for action on the planet’s climate change crisis. The interview turned nasty, with anchor Adam Bolton likening Robin to a ‘fascist’ and labelling him ‘incompetent’ and ‘self-indulgent.’

Watch both these clips and like me I’m sure you will find it  upsetting to see the way Kirsty and Robin were treated.

Both interviews show young people seemingly given a platform for their views, only to be attacked, interrupted, patronised and dismissed.

It isn’t surprising that young Brits are viewed to be less competent by the older generation, with one of the biggest generational gaps in Europe in terms of how people in their 20s are viewed compared to people in their 70’s.

Although research suggest perceptions are poor, in reality we know that millennial’s are actually better educated than previous generations, with more young women in work than their grandparents generations and more young people volunteering now than before.

From the beginning of both interviews,  it is clear that the anchors are unprofessionally bias. They had no interest in genuinely engaging with and analysing Kirsty and Robin’s arguments. Their views were dismissed before they’d even sat down. Dismissed, I believe, for being young. Dismissed for a preconception that they are  inexperienced, unrealistic, idealistic and all the other stereotypes assigned to young people when someone decides they want to dismiss their views.

It’s hard to believe that climate campaigners like Sir David Attenborough would have been treated like Robin was.

It is tragic to see this power dynamic play out live on air, and it’s damaging the way young people are viewed.

The public trust the news to give a balanced representation of all arguments on an issue. As stated in Ofcom’s broadcast rules ‘News, in whatever form, must be reported with due accuracy and presented with due impartiality. ‘

This is why we need to stop patronising young people in the media who have important things to say. Their views and opinions are just as valid as any other  generation, and they deserve to be given an equal chance to share them.

Yet this weekend the dismissal of young people was reiterated again in the press, this time by Conservative politician Boris Johnson. In his column for the telegraph, the ex-Foreign Secretary and Mayor of London complained that he is ‘utterly fed up with being told by nice young people that their opinions are more important than his own.’

Intimidating young people to keep quiet on important issues will not work. Rather than force a frustrated divide and mistrust in the media let’s work together to speak about the world’s problems, with meaningful analysis, balanced and fair hearings.

We should be able to trust the press to give everyone their voice, particularly those of us who face the future challenges of the world.

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Opinion: Why we need to stop patronising young people in the mainstream news

by Poppy Reading time: 3 min