“Nobody can think the same, but you can help people live with their differences.” If there was a lasting impression to leave upon a group young adults, Fran Unsworth has found it. The Director of News and Current Affairs at the BBC perfectly encapsulated the purpose of the news within our society whilst speaking to a group of Fakenham Sixth Form students on Friday afternoon.
It is not often that a group of young adults come together to discuss the news, let alone as enthusiastically, openly and with - arguably - the most important woman in British news. Ms Unsworth spoke exclusively to the Fakenham students about how young adults access the news and what they like to read. As the BBC is funded through TV licences, Ms Unsworth said it’s “important to the BBC that they hear from young people about their concerns, so we can reflect them in the news”. Social media unsurprisingly plays a major role in supplying these sixth-formers news, as well as the more surprising, daily news bulletins on TV. Ms Unsworth said she was “heartened” by the thought of young people still engaging with the news in more traditional ways.
Among the topics discussed were the environment and technology which the students believed were covered well by the BBC. Finance, although not a popular topic, brought about the debate of finance news for young people. Among the views expressed, the most popular was that student finance - particularly that of student loans - were not covered enough or in the way the students preferred. Brexit was another topic to hit the floor and brought about many conflicting views. The census saying that all students, as well as many of the adults in the room, were suitably bored of Brexit. Students also suggested that the reports on Brexit be simplified for a wider audience and much of the jargon to be either lost of explained so they could engage with it more. Entertainment news was another hot topic and many liked the idea of the BBC reporting this more, yet respected that the BBC may want to uphold their brand and the ‘prestige’ BBC news has. Ms Unsworth was keen on discussing the interests of the students so the BBC could “respond to the interests of this age group as you are the future”.
The personalisation of news, a controversial topic, split the group as many liked the idea of tailored news aimed at the reader. The BBC now encourages users to sign in before they access the news so that in future certain topics are shown. However, some of the students thought this may limit the news people came into contact with, Ms Unsworth shared their concerns but ensured that main news articles were still being presented on personalised pages. Fact and opinion too split the group, as many liked the idea of reading opinion pieces and valued peoples opinions just as highly as facts. Ms Unsworth made the valid point that when reporting news, both fact and opinion, “everybody's opinion is not valid if it’s wrong factually”. Fake news also made an appearance and everyone agreed that it was a nuisance. Ms Unsworth explained the term, its misuses within the media and how the BBC does not report such news. In fact, she highlighted the importance of the BBC as it is one of the very few providers that reports ‘just’ the news.
The students of Fakenham Sixth Form thank Fran for her time, her candid responses to their questions and know what an honour it was to talk to her. Lianne Higgins, the Head of Fakenham Sixth Form, commented it’s important for young adults to ‘learn to speak out confidently about their views, listen to views of others and come to their own opinions’. I’m sure many of the students are looking forward to reading tomorrow’s news, and possibly even presenting, writing or making the news in the future.
Chair of Sixth Form Council
Read the article in the EDP: http://www.edp24.co.uk/news/education/fakenham-sixth-form-students-head-...