Using research for broadcasting decisions

Date of publication: June 15, 1991


This paper describes research done on behalf of a leading late night British news and current affairs programme, Newsnight. The editor was concerned about the ten-year-old programme's current status in the changing climate of news and current affairs programming, and commissioned research to inform decisions about the programme's future. The first part of this paper describes special analysis of quantitative data routinely collected by the Broadcasters' Audience Research Board (BARB). A demographic profile of Newsnight's average audience is produced together with an analysis of the overlap between those watching Newsnight and those viewing other news programmes on the same evening. The effects of the Gulf crisis on viewing figures are reported. The second part of the paper describes complementary qualitative research in group discussions with viewers of Newsnight. Attitudes to news and the media show that people are increasingly conscious of the need to monitor news information critically. Viewers have developed their own typology of news and current affairs programmes on television: different programme types generate different expectations about the impartiality of the information conveyed and the role of both presenter and viewer. In this context Newsnight's unique place is identified and specific suggestions for programme development made.

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