‘Too posh’ BBC cuts qual­i­fi­ca­tions from CVS

The Daily Telegraph - - News - By Roz­ina Sabur

THE BBC is re­mov­ing qual­i­fi­ca­tions from the CVS of ap­pli­cants af­ter an in­ter­nal sur­vey found it was too posh, its di­rec­tor of ra­dio and ed­u­ca­tion said.

James Pur­nell re­vealed that names, uni­ver­sity de­grees and school ed­u­ca­tion will be re­moved from CVS dur­ing the cor­po­ra­tion’s re­cruit­ment process in a bid to pre­vent it be­ing dom­i­nated by Oxbridge grad­u­ates.

“It’s some­thing lots of or­gan­i­sa­tions are do­ing; across ac­coun­tancy, across law,” he said. “The the­ory, which I think is right, is that you can get that ev­i­dence in other ways, so you can get it through demon­strat­ing com­pe­tency in other ways.”

The broad­caster may also set tar­gets re­lat­ing to its em­ploy­ees’ so­cial back­grounds in light of con­duct­ing its first re­view of staff ’s so­cial back­ground, said Mr Pur­nell.

An in­ter­nal BBC cen­sus found that 61 per cent of staff had par­ents who were in or had been in higher man­age­rial po­si­tions and pro­fes­sional oc­cu­pa­tions.

The mea­sure is gen­er­ally con­sid­ered a good in­di­ca­tion of a priv­i­leged back­ground and the BBC’S fig­ure was dou­ble the na­tional av­er­age, sug­gest­ing it had a long way to go in achiev­ing so­cial di­ver­sity.

The re­sults also re­vealed 17 per cent of BBC staff and 25 per cent of its man­age­ment team went to pri­vate school – com­pared to seven per cent of the UK pop­u­la­tion as a whole. More than half of em­ploy­ees (52 per cent) had par­ents with uni­ver­sity de­grees.

This is de­spite the fact the BBC al­ready re­moves qual­i­fi­ca­tions from around 300 ap­pli­ca­tions for en­try-level roles. The move was ex­panded to all po­si­tions on an op­tional ba­sis in April.

Mr Pur­nell, who was speak­ing at the Royal Tele­vi­sion So­ci­ety’s con­ven­tion in Cam­bridge, said the BBC wanted to see more data from across the TV in­dus­try be­fore set­tling on a so­cial tar­get.

Con­ced­ing that he was “def­i­nitely priv­i­leged”, Mr Pur­nell added: “We don’t have tar­gets for so­cio-eco­nomic [back­grounds], but we are think­ing about it. Un­til we have data across the in­dus­try, I think it’s quite hard to know what good is.”

The BBC al­ready has tar­gets con­nected to gen­der, race, sex­u­al­ity and dis­abil­ity, but Of­com’s chief ex­ec­u­tive said broadcasters must end the mid­dle­class dom­i­nance of the me­dia.

Sharon White called for “vis­i­ble di­ver­sity”, amid con­cerns that the fo­cus on gen­der and race in­equal­ity in the in­dus­try has seen the so­cial status and re­gional di­ver­sity of staff over­looked. Speak­ing at the con­ven­tion, White said she would be writ­ing to broadcasters to ask them to be­gin col­lect­ing and shar­ing in­for­ma­tion on their em­ploy­ees’ so­cial back­grounds.

More trou­ble for the BBC. Of­com fears that jobs in broad­cast­ing are be­com­ing the ex­clu­sive fief­dom of the mid­dle class. So it plans to make the BBC pub­lish de­tails of its staff ’s so­cial back­ground – thus sham­ing it into hir­ing more peo­ple from the work­ing class.

But there’s one ob­vi­ous prob­lem. To change the gen­der bal­ance of your firm, you sim­ply hire more women. To change the class bal­ance, how­ever, is more com­plex – be­cause there are no set def­i­ni­tions of “mid­dle-class” and “work­ing-class”. So how can the BBC be cer­tain it’s hir­ing the right peo­ple? Still, I’m sure it’ll do its best.

Scene: the of­fice of a BBC ex­ec­u­tive. A ner­vous-look­ing young man en­ters. Ex­ec­u­tive: Do sit down, Mr Smith. Young man: Thank you, sir. Ex­ec­u­tive: As you know, hun­dreds of peo­ple ap­plied for this role. But you’ve made it to the fi­nal two. There are just a cou­ple more things we need to know be­fore we make our de­ci­sion. Young man: Cer­tainly, sir. Ex­ec­u­tive: Thank you. Now tell me: what do you call this piece of tis­sue? Young man: It’s a nap­kin, sir. Ex­ec­u­tive: And what is this let­ter I’ve just writ­ten on it?

Young man: An aitch, sir.

Ex­ec­u­tive: And if I wished to dis­pose of this piece of tis­sue, down what con­trap­tion might I flush it?

Young man: The lava­tory, sir. Ex­ec­u­tive [sighs]: Well, thanks for com­ing in, Mr Smith. We’ll let you know. Send in the next can­di­date, would you, Lizzie?

A young woman en­ters. Ex­ec­u­tive: Good morn­ing, Ms Jones. We were all very im­pressed with your CV. Just one more thing we wanted to clear up. What’s a re­ally wide ver­sion of an arm­chair? Young woman: A set­tee. Ex­ec­u­tive: A set­tee? That’s gen­uinely what you call it? Not a sofa? Set­tee is an ac­tual word you use? Prom­ise? Young woman: Yes. Ex­ec­u­tive: Con­grat­u­la­tions! You’re hired! Hon­estly, it’s so good get­ting more of you peo­ple into the BBC – you’ve all got such a re­fresh­ingly “down-toearth” way of look­ing at things. A set­tee! I say, what meal do you eat in the mid­dle of the day?

Young woman: Din­ner.

Ex­ec­u­tive: Amaz­ing. Oh, and while you’re here – we’ve been try­ing to make a doc­u­men­tary in which we track down peo­ple who ac­tu­ally voted Leave. Drawn an ab­so­lute blank so far. Got any brothers or sis­ters we could talk to?

Cricket-lovers are al­ready miss­ing Henry Blofeld and the sun­lit mer­ri­ment of his com­men­tary for Test Match Spe­cial. A few years ago, a friend had the priv­i­lege of in­ter­view­ing him. Some­times fa­mous peo­ple turn out to be very dif­fer­ent off­stage than on: sub­dued, wary, low-wattage, re­luc­tant to ex­pend their pre­cious cre­ative en­er­gies when they aren’t get­ting paid for it. In dis­ap­point­ment you re­alise that the hero you imag­ined you knew doesn’t re­ally ex­ist: it’s just a role that this worn and some­how shrunken fig­ure in front of you per­forms when the cam­era rolls. But Henry Blofeld, my friend was de­lighted to find, wasn’t like that. Blow­ers re­ally was Blow­ers. At the ap­pointed hour, my friend ar­rived at the great man’s house in Chelsea, and rang the bell.

Blow­ers him­self, shod in bed­room slip­pers, threw open the front door and beamed in wel­come. His very first words were: “Care for a gin and tonic? Sin­gle or dou­ble?”

It was 10 o’clock in the morn­ing. My friend hes­i­tated. On the one hand, he didn’t want to say no, for fear of caus­ing of­fence. On the other, he didn’t want to seem un­pro­fes­sional by get­ting drunk. So he com­pro­mised by re­quest­ing a sin­gle mea­sure. Blow­ers cheer­fully poured it, and helped him­self to one too.

The in­ter­view was a joy, bub­bling with anec­dotes and con­vivial silli­ness. At the end, my friend asked to check a few ba­sic bi­o­graph­i­cal facts. Could Mr Blofeld con­firm his age?

“A gen­tle­man never tells,” hooted Blow­ers, “but I’ll give you a clue: it’s my favourite sex­ual po­si­tion!”

My friend in­cluded this quote in his copy. Sadly the sub edi­tors cut it out.

The last time I sailed down the Thames was dur­ing the EU ref­er­en­dum cam­paign. I was on a boat with Nigel Farage be­ing chased in cir­cles by a fu­ri­ous Bob Geldof on a plea­sure cruiser while a crowd of Brex­i­teers on Black­fri­ars Bridge sang Rule Bri­tan­nia.

This all gen­uinely hap­pened. There are pic­tures.

Since the coun­try ap­pears to be against hold­ing a sec­ond ref­er­en­dum, I fear that that mag­nif­i­cent ex­pe­ri­ence was a one-off. This week, how­ever, I did get to re­live at least part of it.

MBNA Thames Clip­pers wants to start a daily ser­vice car­ry­ing com­muters from Gravesend – the river­side town in Kent where I live – to Lon­don. Early on Mon­day morn­ing, they held a trial run, to see what the pub­lic thought. Ex­cit­edly I hopped aboard. It was glo­ri­ous. I’d imag­ined we’d be gen­tly cruis­ing, but in fact we thun­dered along. Spray blasted up be­hind as we sliced through the Thames, our Union Jack thrash­ing in the wind. I stood on deck, eyes stream­ing in the sil­ver sun­rise, as Es­sex shot past on one side and Kent on the other. Tur­bines, chim­neys, tower blocks. Py­lons, dig­gers, cranes. Roads and bridges were com­ing to life. Slowly Eng­land was start­ing to rouse.

At last the sights of Lon­don loomed: the O2, then Ca­nary Wharf, then Tower Bridge. I took so many pho­tos. My lungs were ablaze with fresh air.

The jour­ney took 10 min­utes longer than it would have done by rail. All the same, I hope they run the boats every morn­ing. So much more en­joy­able than the stuffy, over­crowded old train.

The clip­per trans­forms your dreary com­mute into an ad­ven­ture, and you ar­rive at work tin­gling with the thrill of it.

Just re­mem­ber to bring a hair­brush. You’ll need five min­utes in the of­fice loos to flat­ten your enor­mous, wind­blown bouf­fant.

Missed match: Henry Blofeld is Blow­ers through and through

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