The founder of a website that provides careers advice to graduates claims she was dropped from a BBC TV programme because she refused to abide by a legal request about what she should and should not say.
Tanya de Grunwald, who runs the Graduate Fog site, was booked to appear on BBC Breakfast last Friday to talk about unpaid internships.
On Thursday evening, some half an hour after catching the Manchester-bound train from London at the BBC’s expense, she was called by a researcher questioning what she was prepared to say.
This was followed up by an email from a producer, who wrote:
“We cannot infer that… any employer is breaking the law by not paying interns – this has been absolutely specified by the BBC duty lawyer.
We are asking you to comment on the wider point about whether internships should routinely be paid regardless of current law.”
De Grunwald responded by arguing that many employers are breaking the law by not paying interns, and that it was important viewers knew that.
The producer, says de Grunwald, insisted that she had been advised by the BBC’s duty lawyer that this “claim” was only an “opinion”.
So de Grunwald attempted to explain the minimum wage law in some detail. The unconvinced producer then asked her if she would say something positive during her interview on the show, such as how unpaid internships can be a good thing because they add experience to a young person’s CV.
De Grunwald refused and, after the wrangle – when her train was just 10 minutes away from Manchester – the producer left a voicemail saying she was “terribly sorry” but the “editorial decision from on high” was that “we won’t be able to proceed with the interview as planned tomorrow morning”.
So de Grunwald ended up spending a night at Salford Media City Holiday Inn (double room fee: £109). The train ticket cost a further £79.
“On the up-side,” she told me, “I enjoyed an excellent cooked breakfast the next day.”
She said: “The BBC’s coverage of the issue of unpaid internships is routinely appalling – they minimise and trivialise every development that happens, it’s infuriating.”
Update: The BBC emailed a statement by a spokesperson at 8pm: “On some occasions it is decided, for editorial reasons, to stand down a guest.
“On this occasion the decision was made close the time of broadcast and for this we have apologised to the guest. The decision was made to interview MP Hazel Blears who’s currently campaigning in parliament on this issue.
“The item also featured a case study of a former intern. We then challenged Hazel Blears on her stance and explored some of the issues around internships, including payment.”