An Apprentice

Let’s face it, it’s entertaining although a bit of a Victorian freak show. The Apprentice[1] is back on the tele. The BBC have again given a platform for Lord Sugar and his workday philosophy. It’s deeply engrained in a City[2] centred British philosophy. Boy made good; you might call it. A South Easterner’s quest for the streets of gold that Dick Whittington[3] sought.

What’s on offer is a fast moving climb up a greasy pole in full public view. It’s like no other apprenticeship on offer. The classroom highlights are edited to make the viewer squirm and shiver. Slumped on the sofa we can all say, I wouldn’t have been so silly.

The BBC has a creed. The BBC’s founding purpose, “to inform, educate and entertain”, remains admirable. This includes an equal consideration of viewpoints, probity, popularity, and a commitment to public service. The Apprentice hits one of these buttons. But as we watch, does it inform us what real business is like? Does it educate us about how to conduct successful business? I’d say – not much. The show does, however, give the tie a better name. It’s not bad for pinstripes and power dressing too. Pile on the 1980s stereotypes. Even the wired phones in the Board Room.

As a public funded national broadcaster, the BBC is aware of its commercial competitors. Tooth and nail, they are fighting over our eyeball time. Digitisation has increased the intensity of that fight. So, is it surprising that we get fed monster egos, inexplicable fails, and smug triumphs? Afterall this formula is remarkably entertaining. It creates those watercooler moments.

I’d like to go back to the creed mentioned above. The BBC should be committed to universality. I mean by that a commitment to all sectors of our society. If a public broadcaster is going to do a popular show about business success and failures it ought to cover more ground. Pounding on about the City stereotype is missing a big opportunity.

In a week when Apple[4] reaches a global size of unbelievable proportions, and we watch The Apprentice on their devices, how come we are so blind to the most successful entrepreneurs of the last couple of decades? Making thing matters. OK selling them matters too but both matters.

Having a rough vision in 1976, the year I left school to take up an engineering apprenticeship, a group of West Coast nerds started to shape our future. They shaped it far more than they could ever have imagined. It’s our digital world that continues to expand.

Again, I’d like to go back to the creed mentioned above. There’s would be entrepreneurs messing around with computers, strings and wires in garages and sheds up and down Britain. There’s schools and colleges with incredibly imaginative pupils and students dreaming up dreams and playing with the stuff of the future. Yet, the BBC gives no prime-time space for this corner of our society.

Let’s have a show called – The Innovators. Or even The Disruptors.


[1] https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0071b63

[2] https://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/supporting-businesses

[3] https://www.london-walking-tours.co.uk/london-history/dick-whittington.htm

[4] https://www.statista.com/statistics/265125/total-net-sales-of-apple-since-2004/

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