‘Too posh’ BBC cuts qualifications from CVS
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