The other night as part of the opportunities BBC Generation 2015 have given to me, I managed to get a ticket to be part of the Newsbeat: The Election Debates at the University of Birmingham.
To get a ticket for the event I first had to answer a few questions over the phone regarding my stances on education, health and immigration. As these were the topics being discussed on the night and to ensure there was a fair cross section of opinions. When I turned up at Birmingham and registered we were split into groups (I think to manage the audience rather than our political preferences). A very friendly runner got us warmed up by asking what we wanted to ask the political representatives. If someone said a very good question the runner would go ”I want you to ask that later”. That didn’t mean the questions were decided there and then it was so there was at least a bank of questions ready to either kick off or steer the debate once we were live on air.
When we entered the Great Hall at around 8pm, which was one hour before filming, the seating were split into four sections and each group sat in their section. We started with a rehearsal where we practised the first part where the three 18- 25’s year old’s stood up and introduced themselves and the first topic, which was immigration. It was so that we got comfortable with the format of the show and to help us feel more confident in putting our hand up. Each time we practised different people asked different questions and there wasn’t one person (apart from the first person who started the immigration debate) that was guaranteed to get there question asked.
After practising the introduction three times a quick toilet break entailed then with ten minutes to go the representatives which were Emma Reynolds for Labour, Paul Uppal for the Conservatives, Amelia Womack representing the Green Party, Norman Lamb for the Liberal Democrats and Steven Woolfe of UKIP entered. Then the filming started and off we went. If we wanted to ask a question we had to put our hand up where the runner would run over and whisper the question to him. This was so the runner could make a decision if my question was appropriate based on: the topics being discussed, if a similar question hadn’t already been asked or if the question was just too long. He would then give the mic. Even that was not a guarantee that my question would be asked. It would be up to Chris to ask me my question.
My opinions of the night was mainly positive, I asked a question (51 minutes 14 seconds in if you are interested) which I am so glad I did as it was just the icing on the cake. I didn’t think there was much debate per say but some good questions and statements were made. Such as the young woman who spoke passionately about her friend who had committed suicide and the woman I sat next to who was speaking about her experiences with anxiety who stood up and spoke on live TV.
I think it is good that there are these programmes for young people as the other main televised debates can be a bit dry, with people similar in my age asking questions it is more relatable. Also Newsbeat were very keen for us to get involved on social media even allowing us to tweet and post whilst we were on air. As social media is an important outlet for young people these days it shows how Newsbeat understand their target market well.
Once the broadcast was done I managed to get a selfie with Chris Smith who was lovely and then I ran to catch my train home.
I just want to say thanks to the Newsbeat crew, BBC Generation 2015 and that the BBC have not asked me to write this post, it is completely 100% my opinion.
Did you watch the debate? If so what did you think? Do you think young people need political programmes aimed specifically for them?