Our young need jobs, not crass TV

A million are unemployed, but Hilary Devey's new series won't be of much use in their search for work


A million young people are unemployed, but Hilary Devey's new television series won't be of much use in their search for work. Devey is a likeable and very forthright businesswoman, but the programme-maker's idea of taking three job-seekers, placing them in "challenging" situations where they are filmed by secret cameras solving fake problems involving actors and celebrities, seems crass in the extreme. The Intern (Channel 4) relies on presentable, intelligent, eager-to-please, desperate young people as reality show fodder, trading on their determination to do anything to secure a decent job. At the end of it, any kids watching would not have learnt a single thing – and worse, the show shamelessly reinforced the fantasy that salvation lies through the media.

Georgia (a young mum), Princess (with a degree in business studies), and 19-year-old Taylor, who has sent out 100 CVs and not had a single response, were worth far more than this shallow enterprise. In Roman times, they tossed captives to the lions: now we humiliate kids and film them fighting for a job. How little the notion of "popular" entertainment has changed over the centuries.

One teenager who has landed a decent job is Paris Brown, recently appointed as the UK's first youth police and crime commissioner in Kent on a salary of £15,000. Naturally, the news was greeted with knee-jerk horror by the right-wing press and the TaxPayers' Alliance, even though a third of her salary is being paid by Ann Barnes, the independent elected last year as police and crime commissioner for Kent.

Ms Barnes seems to have made a very astute choice. For once. World at One last Thursday broadcast an articulate interviewee as Martha Kearney attempted (and failed) to undermine Paris, who seemed unruffled and mature beyond her years. Her job is to "liaise with young people and listen to their views". What on earth is wrong with that? Given that a new study – the largest of its kind ever undertaken – concludes that over a third of the victims of antisocial behaviour say reporting it to the police makes absolutely no difference, it's plain that the force needs to start building bridges with local communities pronto. Given that much antisocial behaviour is the result of bored youths hanging around with nowhere to go, any attempt to come up with solutions is to be welcomed. Paris has her work cut out. But at least she has a job, unlike two of the three poor victims on The Intern.

HM Bond girl?

The Queen was the unexpected star of the opening ceremony of the Olympics, making an unforgettable entrance with James Bond, a cameo seen by millions of viewers around the world. She hosted a swanky party celebrating the huge talent in our film and television industries at Windsor Castle last week and Sir Kenneth Branagh presented her an honorary Bafta award as a thank you for her support. Sir Kenneth referred to her "as the most memorable Bond girl yet", but anyone who has seen Skyfall will agree, that is a dubious accolade.

This is the film that brings back Miss Moneypenny, played by Naomie Harris, and reduces her from all-action field operative to secretary in a bodycon frock sitting cutely behind a typewriter. Another female character in Skyfall, Severine, played by Bérénice Marlohe, is a former sex slave.

Her Majesty has very little in common with Bond.

Alan the Humane

Alan Bennett's voice is unmistakable. Is there anyone else who could make a tour of their late mother's kitchen cupboards so unbearably moving? Bennett's writing about his childhood and student years brings back so many memories about my own parents, their desperate need to "fit in" at all costs and their constant fear about "what the neighbours would think".

The playlets Hymn and Cocktail Sticks, transferred from the National Theatre to the West End, are certain to be a huge success. Alex Jennings, as a young Bennett, is simply astonishing, combining the author's unique affection for his parents, while calmly dissecting their every foible and social shortcomings like a vivisectionist. Bennett doesn't mock his parents for their lack of sophistication, which is why he's so humane (and I'm not).

Cut-price BBC

New BBC director-general Tony Hall has his work cut out to restore morale and avert more strikes at the BBC. He says he wants to "create a new chapter" for the corporation and I wish him well. But one of the first problems facing him is erosion of viewing share as the BBC faces competition from new niche channels and services like Netflix, which allow audience to watch quality movies on their computers and phones whenever they want. More worrying is the growing number of people who, perfectly legally, do not pay a licence fee but watch BBC programmes on their computers using the iPlayer. This is a loophole Hall must plug as soon as he can. How can the BBC give away content for free and justify the licence fee? Also, Tesco has just signed a deal with BBC Worldwide to play a huge range of comedy and drama on their Clubcard TV. The service is free, supported by targeted advertising, and subscribers receive details of offers by email. Why the BBC is making its content available to free services I can't imagine. They need fewer channels, fewer repeats and less money wasted on presentation and self-promotion.

Air guiles

Far from not having enough airport capacity in the UK, we have twice as much as we need, according to the head of Birmingham's International hub. Paul Kehoe says that if the claims of our regional airport bosses are believed, they'd be serving a population of 300 million, whereas there are only eight British cities that need their own hub. He cites Blackpool, Doncaster Robin Hood, Durham Tees Valley and Norwich as airports that have seen the numbers of passengers using them plummet drastically as air fare taxes have risen: Blackpool down to 235,000 in 2012 from 558,000 in 2007, Durham down to 165,000 from 735,000. Doncaster has seen a drop of nearly half a million in the same period, and Norwich almost 50 per cent.

Isolated parts of the country such as the Scottish islands need a reliable air link, whether it's viable or not, but I've never understood why people in Doncaster need their own airport with Leeds Bradford and Manchester within 90 minutes by rail or road. The Welsh government has just paid £52m to buy Cardiff airport, which is not making money. Surely this is an expensive gesture which would have been better spent on improving rail and road links. There is already an airport at Bristol, albeit not one where all the signs are in two languages.

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