An eighth series of BBC2’s Dragons’ Den, in which entrepreneurs pitch for funding, is due in the coming months, while the new Junior Apprentice, in which ten potential Lord Alan Sugar protégés aged 16-17 compete for a £25,000 career development fund, starts on BBC1 on Wednesday May 12.
The National Federation of Enterprise Agencies’ chief executive, George Derbyshire, said that people turn on The Apprentice for the fireworks rather than the business lessons.
“The ultra-competitive approach you see on The Apprentice is not always a good trick to adopt in business in real life. We know business works best through partnerships, collaboration and building a team that can be effective.
“There are no excuses in finding good stories to make good business TV. There are 4 million small businesses out there ― you don’t need to have a high strike rate to produce a good TV series.”
He added that The Apprentice, in which Lord Sugar puts business wannabes through successive gruelling business tests, gave “some brilliant examples of how not to do things”.
“A lot of effort is being put into spreading the enterprise message in schools and universities and Junior Apprentice could well help that. I just hope the young apprentices don’t learn the tricks of their older colleagues.”
However, he welcomed the way such programmes had put business on the map.
“There’s no question that they have raised the profile of enterprise and of business generally among the public.”
In the past, he said, programmes such as the BBC’s Troubleshooter series, with Sir John Harvey-Jones, and more recently Channel 4’s Gerry’s Big Decision, with Gerry Robinson, successfully married entrepreneurial education and entertainment.
“People of all backgrounds could enjoy them as entertainment, but they also had genuine insights into how to turn business around.”
Institute of Directors’ spokeman, Alistair Tebbit, said the purpose of Dragons’ Den and The Apprentice is to entertain.
“Maybe it’s inspiring in some way for some people, but I don’t think they’re particularly informative.”
“If we were to have more business TV, we would want it to be more informative rather than entertainment masquerading as business.”