By Daniel Hunter

In support of a campaign calling for a more socially responsible version of The Apprentice show, business leaders today (Wednesday) have sent a petition to the BBC signed by almost 250 members of the public.

Social enterprise leaders say the BBC One show is out of touch with important business trends, teaching that short-term profit is king, ignoring social and environmental considerations, and the need to treat employees with respect.

During the Social Apprentice campaign — launched in June - supporters have claimed that BBC programming is failing to recognise the huge growth in social enterprise and a mounting trend that’s seeing younger generations setting up pro-social businesses.

They have said that the BBC's mission, to inform, educate and entertain, is poorly-served by its current programming on the topic of business, which is a critically important issue for all generations, especially in the wake of the financial crisis.

The petition follows a letter sent last month to Clare Moore, Controller of BBC One, signed by business leaders and social entrepreneurs including Tim Campbell MBE, winner of the first series of The Apprentice, John Bird MBE, founder of The Big Issue, and Jerry Greenfield, co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, which challenged the broadcaster to create and commission programmes that recognise the entrepreneurs and businesses working to tackle head-on the UK’s social and environmental problems. The BBC has not issued a response to the letter.

There are estimated to be at least 70,000 social enterprises in the UK, employing almost a million people and contributing £18.5 billion to the UK economy. The People’s Business report — recently published by Social Enterprise UK — reveals a sector that is experiencing a significant rise in social enterprise start-ups, and outstripping Small to Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) for growth in the UK.

Peter Holbrook, CEO Social Enterprise UK, said: “The Apprentice’s teaching of entrepreneurship is way off the mark. Social enterprises are using business to challenge the social problems plaguing the country, but their stories remain largely untold in BBC television programming.

“This petition reinforces the demand from the general public for BBC business shows that feature social entrepreneurs; business leaders that can inspire and educate viewers, not only entertain.

“In an age of continued austerity, and in a society struggling to tackle a growing number of social issues, the BBC has a public responsibility to talk about the solutions to the problems we face, and how social enterprise is increasingly one of them.”

John Bird MBE, founder of The Big Issue Editor-in-chief of The Big Issue, said: “We need more TV shows about social entrepreneurs and enterprises. Though at times the sector is overlooked, more and more people are buying into the idea that we need business and social need to come together. There are a lot of very exciting stories and a lot of interesting people doing astonishing things."

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