The Apprentice

In a letter to the BBC, business leaders and social entrepreneurs including Tim Campbell MBE, winner of the first series of The Apprentice, John Bird MBE, founder of The Big Issue, and Jerry Greenfield of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, are calling for a new type of ‘The Apprentice’ show, in support of a campaign urging a change to the public broadcaster’s television programming.

The Social Apprentice – a new campaign launched today by Social Enterprise UK, the national body for social enterprise – claims shows like the The Apprentice are out of touch with current business trends. They claim mainstream business programming is failing to take account of the changing nature of UK businesses. The UK is experiencing a start-up boom in social enterprises – especially in deprived areas. Social enterprises are businesses that exist to tackle social or environmental problems. The UK is widely regarded as a global leader in social enterprise, and is home to innovations like the world’s first social investment bank.

The letter, addressed to Charlotte Moore, Acting Controller of BBC One, says shows like The Apprentice inspire generations of entrepreneurs and provide role-models for young leaders and great swathes of the workforce. But the national broadcaster’s current focus on just-for-profit business ‘does not represent the reality on the ground’ and is ignoring a whole wave of business innovation. It challenges the broadcaster to create and commission programmes that recognise the entrepreneurs and businesses working to tackle head-on the UK’s social and environmental problems.

Peter Holbrook, Chief Executive, Social Enterprise UK, says, “We, business leaders and social entrepreneurs, want to see the BBC broadcast business programmes that represent the reality on the ground. Shows like The Apprentice are out of touch with current trends in the business world. The public needs to know that a fast-growing swathe of British businesses only exists to service social or environmental purposes. They are free from shareholders looking for dividends, and they reinvest their profits. In the UK we have a social enterprise movement that is admired by people and countries around the world. Our public broadcaster could do much more to report on the work and impact of social enterprises.”

There are estimated to be at least 68,000 social enterprises in the UK, employing more than a million people and contributing more than 5% of UK GDP. Research points to a social enterprise start-up boom in the UK, and a sector that’s outstripping Small to Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) for growth. Well-known examples include The Big Issue and Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen.

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