Channel 4, Sky Media and the BBC are unruffled by not knowing what the future of news is (just don’t mention sharing content with Google)

Channel 4's Cathy Newman was joined by a quartet of senior media executives from to discuss the 'Future of News' in a sedate session at the TV Festival.

As much of the discussion surrounded the unknowable effect of technology on future developments, the panel were unwilling to commit themselves to confident predictions about what lies ahead and concentrated instead on where we are now.

The contributors took turns to demonstrate how in thrall they are to new media with Newman's boss James de Pear particularly vociferous about the importance of finding ways to accommodate the flighty foibles of youth. While conceding that Channel 4 News was constrained by Ofcom from going too far, he revealed that "the more emotional the piece, the bigger the audience among younger viewers" in a candid admission that they tailor their broadcasts to exploit this phenomenon.

de Pear claimed that young journalists are better equipped to provide news for their peer group and cited a recent example from his own programme. Krishnan Guru-Murthy's visit to Dismaland - Banksy's latest wheeze - had generated a report which gained a respectable number of views when it was posted online but a hastily chucked together piece filmed and edited on mobile phones by some of his new recruits gained many, many more.

Head of Sky News John Ryley was keen to highlight his station's Snapchat initiative which - he believes - is key to building their relationship with younger viewers. Ryley remained sanguine in the face of Cathy Newman's cheeky observation that Snapchat's current impact is so minimal that it doesn't even achieve a 1 per cent share on a chart illustrating the strengths of the various online news providers. Ryley was, however, grateful for the support of the BBC's director of news and current affairs James Harding who said he was "jealous" of the project despite its inauspicious ratings.

Ryley said he doesn't know "what the big thing will be next year", but seemed untroubled by any insecurity this might generate. This reflected the mood of all the panellists who were surprisingly buoyant in the face of the uncertainties that surround their realm... de Pear went so far as to suggest this is "a golden era" for journalism.

The panel seemed to agree that Twitter wasn't as important to audiences as it is to journalists and there was some suggestion that the medium is now solely devoted to journalists talking to each other. Ryley admitted he'd overestimated Twitter but had belatedly come to realise that 140 characters doesn't allow for "analysis or depth".

Peter Barron, Google's vice presdent of commuications and public affairs for EMEA, argued consistently for a more open model with publishers making their output available "across the internet" but this idea was met with a degree of caution from the other panellists.

Harding spoke enthusiastically about a new initiative from Google called the Trust Project which aims to develop an algorithm capable of ensuring that the article that "deserves it the most" will appear at the top of the rankings in response to specific searches. He is clearly hoping this will enable the news agency that's "done the work" to get the credit.

Harding was unable to guarantee BBC News's viability as a television offering and tacitly acknowledged that they could end up - as BBC Three soon will - available only as an online entity but this prospect didn't appear to fill him with horror.

Newman worried that the shift online might compromise the seriousness of news broadcasts citing the general appetite for "cat videos" as an indicator of the public's expectations of the what the internet has to offer. Harding reassured her that "people want a mixture of spinach and cheesecake".

Asked by a recent graduate in the audience what advice the four would offer her, the reply was unanimous: "just do it". Technology has equipped aspiring journalists with everything they need to start creating news stories so the best thing they can do to demonstrate their skill is to just get on with it.

Jason Stone is a media writer and editor of David Reviews. Follow our live coverage from the Edinburgh International TV Festival here.

Get The Drum Newsletter

Build your marketing knowledge by choosing from daily news bulletins or a weekly special.