Expert view: Better ways to reach the young

How can charities engage the 16-24 age group with thought-provoking television?

For many young people, the patrician attitudes demonstrated in top-down journalism and traditional documentaries are no longer relevant. But broadcasters that try something different can end up on the receiving end of the Daily Mail's wrath.

BBC3 was recently criticised for The Baby Borrowers, its 'social experiment' in which teenagers looked after other people's babies. But it had noble intentions: linking potential parents to a host of content and support organisations online. MTV's Virgin Diaries, in which teens contemplated their sexuality, similarly incurred the fury of the moral guardians, but it increased calls to Brook Advice Line by 250 per cent.

I recently returned from India, where I was working with young film makers desperate to get social issues on TV and in the cinema. Many had started their careers working with NGOs. Sadly, Indian TV's main channel recently dropped its only regular slot for documentaries, and film makers are increasingly looking internationally to get their stories told.

In the UK we have protection for our public service content, but the television landscape changes almost daily. Ofcom is currently proposing that the only way to secure such content for future generations is to use new media formats. It's currently consulting on the idea of a Public Service Publisher, which could be funded by up to £100m to fill this gap - it doesn't specify how, but maybe by top-slicing the BBC licence fee.

The idea has merit. It could be a great opportunity for charities to partner with new content suppliers. You can have your say on the idea on the Ofcom website.

The most advanced voluntary organisations are making an effort to reach new audiences. Amnesty is always worth watching and currently has a great game on its site as part of its campaign to close Guantanamo Bay. Oxfam uses music in creative ways, and Barbara Stocking is now a champion blogger.

Charities are also beginning to use YouTube and MySpace to extend their reach, but the good content gets lost in the silliness. To encourage more thoughtful contributions, the Department for Education and Skills is putting £6m into a new fund for young people to create media content - it's called Media Box, and the Media Trust is a partner. We're also launching a youth zone on the Community Channel later this year. We want to prove there are thoughtful, creative young people with something to say - so help us do it, and encourage your members, friends and children to get involved.

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