'Darren', the man keeping E4 on air. Photo: Youtube / E4

Are young people too busy watching E4 to vote?

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[dropcap]I[/dropcap]n the 2010 General Election, only approximately 44% of 18- to 24-year-olds who had registered to vote turned up at the polling stations and posted their ballots. After concerns of growing apathy in the run up to the 2015 General Election, Channel 4 have taken it upon themselves to “try and boost that number” by closing E4 on May 7. No matter how well-intentioned, Channel 4 have, once again, missed the mark by miles. 

This announcement came in the form of a 41 second YouTube clip, featuring ‘Darren’, the man keeping E4 on air. The clip starts by introducing who he is, before moving on to ask: “how many times have you missed life-changing events because you wanted to watch your favourite shows?” Those shows, naturally, being How I Met Your Mother and Hollyoaks, to name a few. The clip finishes with a website where people can find out more about voting (as if they’ve only just found out from the clip that the General Election exists).

Despite this somewhat hopeful note, the whole premise of the clip seems in rather bad taste

Rather than coming away invigorated and encouraged to vote, the clip’s only achievement is to patronise and perpetuate negative stereotypes of young people. Channel 4’s logic seems to rest on E4’s ability to ‘allure’ viewers so much that they are incapable of doing anything beyond watching TV. E4 is apparently so enticing that it prevents viewers even from voting in the General Election, which Channel 4 calls a “life-changing event”.

Is this anywhere near as fun as Hollyoaks? Photo: Flickr / Secretlondon123

Is this anywhere near as fun as Hollyoaks? Photo: Flickr / Secretlondon123

While it’s hardly disputable that voting is important and could well be life-changing, especially if young people do vote (students at Warwick could stand to greatly affect results in both the North Warwickshire and Coventry South swing seats), Channel 4 have taken entirely the wrong approach to the topic. Young people are not abstaining from voting in the General Election because they’re glued to their TV screens.

Perhaps, rather, they’re too busy working zero-hour contracts to fund their education, or simply so disillusioned with a government and parties so far removed from young people that it’s difficult to believe voting for any of them will make any difference. Not to mention the arguably broken voting system in First Past the Post. After all the talk about tactical voting recently, as opposed to simply for policies and parties you believe in, there has to be something wrong with it.

But no, that can’t be the case. It must be those new episodes of Hollyoaks keeping young people away from their respective polling stations.

In essence, Channel 4’s approach has failed to recognise the lack of awareness of politicians of the need for more policies directed at young people. And it’s rather insulting.

Rather than try to encourage young people to vote in a positive way, Channel 4 have only succeeded in perpetuating the idea that we are lazy and apathetic

Not to mention that it supports the accusations that young people are simply too apolitical and self-absorbed to recognise wider issues in their lives.

Are these 'How I Met Your Mother' characters a threat to democracy? Photo: Flickr / Graham van der Wielen

Are these ‘How I Met Your Mother’ characters a threat to democracy? Photo: Flickr / Graham van der Wielen

To make matters worse, there is a hypocrisy about the decision to close E4 on Thursday 7 May and how the broadcasting channel has linked it to young people’s affinity for shows like How I Met Your Mother. On one hand, Channel 4 is a company which makes money from the ratings it receives on E4 by showing programmes such as How I Met Your Mother and marketing them to young people.

Yet, on the other hand, they’re telling us that these shows make us somehow less intelligent, or too caught up in popular culture to be conscious of the importance of the General Election. So, naturally, they have to tell us how important it is, as if – despite being adults and having the power to vote – we are children.

When they tell us to watch things to make them money and later criticise it (because enjoying an episode of The Big Bang Theory every now and then makes us incapable of doing anything else) Channel 4’s message isn’t worthwhile at all.

Young people don’t need to be told to vote

We don’t deserve our lack of engagement with the last elections to be equated with missing it for favourite TV shows. And we certainly don’t need this ‘incentive’.  What we need are policies targeted at young people, which will actually make voting worthwhile.


new_twitter_logoDo you agree with Halimah that Channel 4 have ‘missed the mark’ with this, or do you think shutting E4 could be a good idea? Are young people too busy watching E4 to vote? Let us know what you think in the comments below, or on Twitter @BoarTelevision!


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