Social media has left Gen Z without the skills needed for the workplace, Channel 4’s boss has said.
Young people are increasingly consuming content via short videos on TikTok, YouTube and other platforms, rather than sitting down to watch full-length programmes.
“What we are seeing with young people who come into the workplace, Gen Z, particularly post-pandemic and with this concentration of short-form content, is that they haven’t got the skills to debate things,” she told the Royal Television Society conference in Cambridge.
“They haven’t got the skills to discuss things, they haven’t got the skills to disagree.”
Young people can struggle to work alongside people who do not share their opinions, she said. “That is a really dangerous step-change that we are seeing.”
‘The algorithm is in charge’
Research commissioned by Channel 4 showed that people in Britain watch an average of five hours of video – rather than live television – per day.
Short-form video – anything of around a minute or less – constitutes 25 per cent of that viewing for older people but 45 per cent for those aged 16-34.
However, the research found that British consumers feel anxious about “video overload” when there is so much content on offer and algorithms serve up a constant diet of clips.
“Viewers worry about the pervasiveness and ubiquity of a certain type of video content. Our research shows that many people associate their short-form social media consumption with feeling a lack of control.
“Their decision to seek an occupation for their downtime is conscious and intentional, but that does not apply to the specific content they subsequently consume, for the simple reason that it is algorithmically-served rather than selected,” Mahon said.
“When the algorithm is in charge, people say they feel emotionally out of control – the immediate dopamine hit fades rapidly and they are left feeling empty.”
Older viewers are still loyal to public service broadcasters despite the take-up of streaming services, the conference heard.
In a table of the top 40 most-viewed shows of the past 12 months, only one – Clarkson’s Farm on Amazon Prime Video – was made by a streamer.
The top 10 included Happy Valley, Death in Paradise and Call the Midwife.
Among 16-34-year-olds, a dozen shows in the top 40 were from streaming services, including The Mandalorian on Disney+ and Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story on Netflix.
Mahon said: “It is universally true that the world in which you have been socialised calibrates your cultural compass. In the top 40 shows for young people, there are 14 streamer shows.
“The brands for young viewers are on different services, they navigate differently. We don’t know yet what that will mean, but it is safe to say there has been much more profound change for them than their parents experienced.”
However, the most popular show of the past year among younger viewers was a traditional BBC One offering: The Apprentice.