TV's business shows don't deliver the goods

The Apprentice and Dragons' Den could be damaging to British businesses, according to 75% of decision-makers. Time to turn the box off then...

by Dave Waller
Last Updated: 17 Oct 2011
That’s according to a survey by office-space finding company, which asked decision makers at 200 firms whether they believed the shows offered an accurate portrayal of the business world (let’s hope they put more muscle into helping companies find office space than they do in finding survey respondents…) Three-quarters said they didn’t, while 52% believed the shows served more as vehicle for creating celebrity business egos, rather than educating the public on how to get their own ship sailing smoothly. Only 19% said the programmes were a useful guide on how to make it in business.

So TV doesn’t suit the suits then. But why? Some believe the shows encouraged short-term money-making rather than collaboration and long-term investment, which is an acute observation. Others pointed out the rather more obvious fault that the contestants are simply intent on creating a media persona for themselves. You just have to look at the likes of Stuart Baggs, whose sole purpose in going on the Apprentice was to promote Stuart Baggs. With the sole result of making anyone in the UK with half a brain take a severe dislike to Stuart Baggs.

Others criticised the wide variety of tasks that the shows involved, arguing that this just set up young viewers for disappointment when they hit work in the monotony that is real life. Really? That’s like saying the Night Garden gives kids an unrealistic view of what’s happening outside their window when they go to bed.

It’s an unfortunate truth that the only way to accurately portray the working world on TV, without all the editing, would be to do a Big Brother-style thing with the cameras running on a business operation round the clock for a month. Of course, that would just involve large periods where people sat staring open-mouthed as they pressed keys, with the occasional bout of smashing an unresponsive mouse about, followed by a cathartic cup of tea. Hardly a ratings smash. Then again, Big Brother has done well with less.

It wasn’t all bad news though: some business leaders said they supported the shows, and it was useful to get pearls of wisdom from some of Britain’s best business brains. Yet it seems they all missed the biggest criticism of the Apprentice: that it’s based around a shouty man whose only decent business move of the last 20 years was to accept the lead role on a TV show about business. And sorry kids, if you’re expecting a cushy ride like that you will be disappointed… 

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