Editorial: Positive images must triumph over gloom

Ravi Chandiramani
Wednesday, January 10, 2007

A study by opinion pollster YouGov provided a fascinating insight into the national mood as we entered the new year.

Published by The Sunday Times on New Year's Eve, it found 40 per cent of Britons were positive about their own lives in the year just gone, with 24 per cent saying they had had a bad year. However, when quizzed about the state of the country, only seven per cent thought 2006 had been a good one for Britain, while 55 per cent thought it had been bad. Immigration, closely followed by antisocial behaviour (cited by 44 per cent) topped the list of Great British gripes. Expectations for 2007 reflected a similar disparity between the private and public realms.

For better or - increasingly - for worse, the media provides the main prism through which people form their opinions about life beyond their family and community. Readers of many national newspapers are fed a constant diet of stories demonising young people as "yobs" who roam the streets committing acts of crime.

Young People Now's mission to tackle this malaise - the Positive Images Awards - will launch this week for the third year, rewarding youth groups and media that promote images of young people in a way that combats negative stereotypes.

The irony about the press's general disdain for young people is that, aside from the fact it risks putting off a generation of future consumers, very few young people actually read newspapers. More and more are getting their information from the internet. This year's Positive Images Awards introduces a new category for "best interactive media produced by young people" in recognition of the social trend, as well as a "best broadcast" award. The deadline for entries is 23 February (see p9).

As we also report this week, the Government's launch of the £6m Youth Media Fund is another welcome initiative in affirming the confidence and creativity of young people. The peddling of negative stereotypes from many sections of the British media has created a vicious circle that now reaffirms many people's prejudices against the young. It is only through showing the authentic expression of young people - through their own projects and by giving them a voice in the media - that we can break the dichotomy between private contentment and public gloom.