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BBC Internships: Big Bad Corporation?

I will openly and proudly say that I love the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and all that it gives us. The institution broadcasts around the world in places using national sources and has some of the highest class reporters, producers and technicians working under its umbrella. This is why the scandal factor is so high when looking at their internships. 

Earlier this week it was revealed that a planned interview to be aired on BBC Breakfast with the founder of the Graduate Fog website, Tanya de Grunwald, was cancelled at the last minute. This is particularly relevant because she was to join a discussion about unpaid internships. During pre-interview conversation it was clear she would be highlighting the unacceptable norm that it is in fact illegal not to pay interns, it is reported that the BBC Duty Lawyer took issue with her argument. Shortly after Ms de Grunwald was then removed from the debate proceedings. It may come as no surprise to also learn that from 2007-2011 the BBC has had 6,283 unpaid workers.

This story particularly frustrated me because it was such a thoughtless error, also, like so many others I have taken issue with and yet still completed, unpaid work experience and intern sessions since I was 17.  It is something that needs to be openly and honestly discussed by a wider range of policy influencers and large corporations, including the BBC.

The BBC and therefore we as a nation are absorbed in another scandal about their extortionate pay-offs. These have been received by various outgoing staff over the past 4 years with the biggest being the ex-deputy director general, Mark Byford,  who received £1, 022, 000. The most embarrassing part of this story is not, in my opinion, the amount of money spent but rather the messy mis-communications that have come to light in the hearings. There have been lies, tattling, fingers of blame and downright denial, all coming from men and women who have been in the industry for some decades and are supposedly educated and worthy of their posts.

How can we all continue to place our respect and trust in such a corporation when that severance pay could cover thousands of unpaid workers the National Minimum Wage for their two weeks work experience?

This is not intended to be an anti-BBC piece but I feel strongly that for it to keep its treasured and deserved place in the international media arena, perhaps some of those unpaid first-class degree interns should be heading up the ladder faster to bring a fresh understanding of reality to the institution.

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