Posh kids at the BBC

(All schools mentioned in photo captions below are private “independent” schools)

In news, current affairs and sport, the percentage of privately educated presenters, reporters and interviewers at the BBC is much higher than the percentage of people who attended a private school in the UK.  If all visible BBC employees were competent and intelligent their respective school backgrounds would not be important.  However, some of these posh boys and girls are well-equipped to do their jobs, some are just about adequate and many are inadequate.  

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Frank Gardner, Marlborough College

For any job in any profession, the school an applicant attended should play no part in her or his suitability for the post.  But, in some BBC departments, the best candidates for a job have not always been the successful candidates because the names of the schools on the CVs and/or applications have played their part.  

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Sarah Sands (right), Kent College

The BBC has woolly excuses for its recruitment bias.  It claimed (correctly) that a good education is preferable; however, the percentage of privately educated people with university degrees is lower than the percentage of privately educated successful candidates for public BBC roles.  A good degree and some good relevant experience are useful components of a CV; the school attended should carry no importance.

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Victoria Derbyshire, Bury Grammar School

The voice
How rarely is a real regional accent heard on BBC news and current affairs?  Occasionally, a Morningside accent is heard, or the softest of Welsh of Irish tilts.  But, Geordie, Liverpudlian, Glaswegian, Mancunian, Brummie, the great variety of Yorkshire and Lancashire accents, West Country, Cockney and many other London accents are all absent among the presenters of national news and current affairs programmes.  

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Nick Robinson, Cheadle Hulme School

Bizarrely, even on BBC Radio 5 Live’s sports coverage there are a plethora of posh voices pretending to have knowledge of sport. 

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John Inverdale, Clifton College

Why is attendance at a fee-paying school a necessity to speak on the radio about football, rugby, tennis, motor-racing, etc?

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Mark Chapman, Manchester Grammar School

Is it the voice that appeals to the recruiters at BBC sport?  Decades ago, there used to be a phenomenon of “the BBC voice” for broadcast on radio and TV.  This voice was accentless and spoken clearly.   Today’s privately educated 5 live voices sound as one, a screechy harsh sound that is unkind on the ears; it is definitely not similar to the traditional “BBC voice.”

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Mark Pougatch, Malvern College

At private schools pupils are taught how to dominate conversations via the use of loud voices, rude interruptions, distractions and vacuous verbosity.  These characteristics are displayed in job interviews because, for some jobs at the BBC, such behaviour is considered to be a necessity for an employee in a public-facing role.  These anti-skills obscure a lack of talent, a lack of knowledge and a lack of intelligence.

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Emma Barnett, Manchester High School

Political position
Intelligent pupils at any school will develop whatever political position that suits them.  Less intelligent pupils are more likely to be persuaded by the education they receive.  Pliable students can be easily led. 

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Mark Urban, Kings College School

For many employers who are seeking employees with a restricted political outlook, there would be more confidence that a private school will have ensured that an intellectually challenged candidate will fit the required restriction.  There is greater political safety for an employer choosing a privately educated candidate for a job. 

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Laura Kuenssberg, Laurel Park School

Understandably, the BBC, in constant fear of the Tories’ threats to destroy it, would favour a less capable but more politically trustworthy candidate for a BBC job over a better-skilled but more politically independent and informed candidate.

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Norman Smith, Oundle School

Consequences
The skewed policy of recruitment has the obvious consequence of exclusion.  The exclusion exists not only in recruitment but also in promotion. 

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Andrew Marr, Craigflower Preparatory School, High School of Dundee, Loretto School

A second consequence is an unnecessary variation in the quality of the presenting and reporting.  Much of the BBC’s news and sport presentation is very good but too great a quantity is very pedestrian, contentless and inept. 

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Nicky Campbell, Edinburgh Academy

The special courses at the private schools on how to talk incessantly in a pseudo confident loud voice are useless when critical analysis and imparting facts and information are needed.  It’s like teaching a dog a single trick which is to bark loudly.

Changes?
There is no need for government legislation or imposed quotas to solve the biased recruitment policy at BBC news and sport.  All that is needed is more intelligence by the corporation in its recruitment.  Being impressed by the name of a school is a stupid reaction. 

It is an issue that can be fixed easily without fuss.

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Tony Hall, King Edward’s School Birmingham, Birkenhead School

Related blogs
Tips for BBC News
BBC balance and bias

Posh kids at the BBC

One thought on “Posh kids at the BBC

  1. Where to start? This is a fair article, as far as it goes. Your main point is a little tendentious – but not in the way that you might imagine!

    Let as start with teaching. A teacher who arrives at a private school is likely to have a very different set of motives from his/her counterpart in the common room of a bog standard comprehensive – if, indeed, there IS a common room. Now it may well surprise, but right from the off, two comparably qualified teachers, the one in the bsc is likely not only to be better, because of motivation, but is also likely to improve farther and faster. For instance, unscientifically, there were NO departments in my very expensive school which matched the Physics department in my boys’ bsc. My school’s best department was Physics, ironically. History and English in my boys’ bsc outmatched anything I had come across, or of which I’ve heard. Luck? Perhaps.

    Culture. Ah, culture. In a paid school, curiosity is unlikely to be a prized attribute. This can also be deduced by the lackadaisical products of those sort of schools littering our airwaves. In any half decent bsc, curiosity is not only prized, but rewarded, cosseted, encouraged and given extra perks. This is because curiosity is a second, and far superior, assistant teacher. If there is curiosity, in a class room, everybody learns better and faster. Including, incidentally, the teacher! Why would paid schools be against this? Because curious pupils rebel, try outrageous things, and quite often behave appallingly, until the requisite lesson is learned. Paid schools, as a rule, can’t be doing with any of that.

    Results. It is often pointed out that paid schools get better results than bscs. Well they would, wouldn’t they? Demographics, innit? But can paid school kids outthink bsc kids? Not in my long experience. (64). This is why, in my opinion, the products of the Russell Group of Universities are largely incompetent, not to say crap, and why everything in this poor benighted country is so ghastly. Everywhere you look, some toffee-nosed prat from Eton or similar is making an arse of himself/Roedean herself, in some perfectly ordinary job. Why? Because the Russell Group persists in selecting the huge majority of their entrants from ps.

    So what I am really saying, is that the rough and tumble of bscs may very well be producing better and more competent people, and that it would pay us, and the RG, to take note of this.

    This has huge implications for our futures, if I’m right. I might not be. I’ll leave that to you.

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