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Politically disillusioned young people need an edgy, relevant programme like The Daily Show

We need something that will really engage younger people.

Luke Keenan

LAST WEEK IN the United States, all news organisations, whether right-leaning or left, covered the same story as ‘breaking news’: Jon Stewart was stepping down after over 16 years at the helm of Comedy Central’s satirical late night show The Daily Show.

Stewart has in the past mocked what passes for breaking news stories on all the major news networks in the US and beyond; no matter what way you leaned politically this was a big story. What Jon Stewart has done over the past 16 years has been exceptional, even Fox News will agree. He has turned The Daily Show into one of the most important, relevant, and entertaining sources of news for young people around the world.

Being culturally and politically important

Stewart has made no attempt to hide his own views but equally would criticise both sides of the political divide when it was called for, and his comments have often been carried on news organisations worldwide. His views became important; in fact they became so important that nobody wanted to get on the wrong side of The Daily Show.

In testament to how culturally and politically important and influential his show became in American politics Stewart’s guests included sitting presidents, secretaries of state, senators, house representatives and other big personalities like Bill O’Reilly from Fox News.

While many of his guests may have disagreed with his views, they realised appearing on the show was vitally important to their own careers so they could put forth their own views. Stewart was able to reach a powerful section of society that was disillusioned with the political system: young people. Ireland is missing a show that connects with the young people and get them interested in politics.

Engaging young people

In the past we have had such shows that dealt with political issues in a relevant, engaging, albeit satirical, way – The Panel being the prime example where each week there was a panel of sharp-witted comedians and commentators discussing the big stories in the news in a way that engaged with young people. In the UK they have no shortage of these shows and often can wield significant power in the political realm, such as Mock The Week and Have I Got News For You.

It is quite surprising that no broadcaster in Ireland has decided to exploit the potential that exists for a show like The Daily Show, especially with the plethora of hot topic issues in Irish society today. There is no lack of chat shows and serious news broadcasts on the air, in fact some argue there are too many for such a small, saturated market but shows like Tonight With Vincent Browne, Prime Time and The Late Late Show are not shows that attract young people en masse and this needs to be addressed.

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Many young people feel disillusioned with politics

The next election in 2016 is one which will be decided in the next 12 months, and it will be decided on what the current government does during the run-up period and perhaps more importantly, the policies the opposition put forth to challenge the government. This election will see a raft of young voters who will be eligible to vote for the first time, but they have to be interested in voting first.

It is clear that the adversarial nature of Irish politics and the incessant bickering and pettiness across the chamber leaves young people, and in fact many voters, feeling disillusioned with politics in this country. This is an issue that both sides can no longer ignore, they need to engage with young people, and the empty promises and hollow sound bites that “young people are the future” need to be backed up with substance and action.

It is not simply that they have to engage, it must be the right way of engaging. The last thing young people want to do in the evening is spend their free time watching yet another dull news show, so why not give them something different. It is a common sense move, the Irish people love comedy and poking fun at our own failings so it is about time that we poke fun at our political systems failings – of which there are many – in a constructive way.

Debate is good, it is constructive and it leads to real change, a show such as The Daily Show provokes debate and, in a society where abortion, marriage equality, blasphemy law and electoral reform are the hot bed issues, debate is required.

Luke is an occasional writer and current affairs enthusiast.

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About the author:

Luke Keenan

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