Does reality TV create a good impression of entrepreneurship?

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They constitute some of the most visible content around but do reality TV business programmes create a good impression of entrepreneurship?

YES Programmes like these help profile professions that are not usually featured on mainstream entertainment channels. Tom Pellereau, the mechanical engineer and winner of The Apprentice in 2011, shone a light on engineering talent, which the UK desperately needs in order to tackle the challenges of the future.

The winners are role models for the next generation of talent and encourage them to have dreams and aim high. The UK needs more scientists and engineers to remain at the forefront of R&D, and TV programmes that give people the opportunity to exercise true entrepreneurship can only be a benefit to achieving that goal.

The Apprentice has also helped raise the profile of real apprenticeships, even though the winner doesn’t actually become one. Apprenticeships are incredibly important, particularly in my industry (engineering) where we have a skills shortage and we need to offer alternative routes into the profession.

Business TV shows offer entertainment that still has a base in education, learning, innovation and career development. If we can use them to tap into business spirit early we could help safeguard the economy in later years. In 2014 small firms accounted for 99 per cent of all private sector businesses in the UK and employed 15.2 million people (according to the FSB) yet a huge proportion fail during the first couple of years – we need to improve this figure and TV shows might just be one way.

Mark Naysmith is UK managing director of engineering consultancy WSP
@WSP_UK

NO During the early days of these programmes there was a widespread belief that they would have a positive impact on UK businesses by encouraging the next generation of entrepreneurs. However, 10 series in, the general feeling is that The Apprentice no more portrays the reality of running a business than Coronation Street accurately reflects life in the north of England.

The backstabbing, bickering, and egotism of the people in the show foster misconceptions about the characteristics needed for success – and risks putting potential businessmen and women off. The way the programme is edited portrays the candidates as greedy and over-confident individuals, who are shown in the worst light during boardroom showdowns.

This gives out the wrong message to young people about the qualities needed to achieve in business. It also runs a reputational risk for those candidates in the show who are serious about a long-term business career.
The Apprentice also wrongly depicts the skills needed for business by only focusing on a handful of abilities – mainly sales and negotiation.

Young people and would-be entrepreneurs need to understand that leadership, people management, marketing, finance, communication, creativity and strategic-planning skills are just as important. It’s time for major broadcasters to provide more programming about real-life companies, not reality TV business shows.

James Taylor is founder of SuperStars, which provides activity programmes for schools.  He is also a member of IoD Wales
@jamestaylor_SS

About author

Hannah Baker

Hannah Baker

Hannah Baker is deputy editor at Think Publishing. Previously she worked as a features writer and sub-editor for Director magazine

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