Is TV encouraging a new wave of entrepreneurs?

A survey has found that more than half of consumers think TV sheds a positive light on entrepreneurship. Apart from Ian Beale...

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 18 Jul 2011
Poor Ian Beale. Eastenders’ resident tycoon has been ditched by three wives, seen various business enterprises go down the toilet, and had a contract taken out on his life – and now he’s been blamed for casting a negative light on entrepreneurs. According to research by the Department, for Business Innovation and Skills, half of the viewing public think the weasel-faced wheeler-dealer sheds a negative light on entrepreneurs. We can’t imagine why.

The more cynical among you may ask why BIS is using taxpayer money to find out what people think of fictional characters. Well, it’s all part of research into how the media affects the way we see entrepreneurship, apparently. And the good news was that the general view was encouraging: 58% said they thought more positively about entrepreneurs as a result of media coverage, while just over half said they were ‘made more aware’ of a career as an entrepreneur.

Even Lord Alan’s finger-wagging isn’t putting people off: in fact, 55% of those questioned said the Apprentice is their favourite entrepreneurial show, while 46% preferred Dragons’ Den. Thankfully, though, only 6.6% believe it offers a ‘realistic depiction’ of what it’s like to start a business.

But while the crowing of Stuart ‘the Brand’ Baggs et al made for good entertainment in last season’s Apprentice, it didn’t inspire many to start a business. Because while one in five said entrepreneurial programmes had motivated them to start their own business, the most successful programme in that regard was actually (weirdly) Junior Apprentice. Apparently, 83% of those who said they’d been inspired by it actually took the first few steps to starting a business, compared to the grown-ups’ 70% (although only 16.7% actually went as far as to incorporate a company).

And if that wasn’t enough to convince you that business TV can provide inspiration for the next generation of entrepreneurs, consider this: nearly 12% of new business owners said the media was a major influence on their decision to start a business. That’s compared to 4% for established business owners.

One corollary of the economic turmoil of the last few years is that more people have started taking an interest in business - which is obvious from the prevalence of TV programmes on the subject. Let's just hope some of them are inspired to create the kind of companies that will drag us out of our current malaise.

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