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BBC cancelled guest because of her views on internships

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Is it illegal not to pay interns, or just part of the cut-throat workplace conditions ushered in by the coalition government? It's a thorny issue that proved just a tad too prickly for the BBC, who rejected a guest because she proposed pointing out that many employers were acting illegally.

BBC Breakfast had booked Tanya de Grunwald, who runs the Graduate Fog recruitment website, to join in a discussion about unpaid internships. When a researcher quizzed her about her opinions, de Grunwald said that that some employers are breaking the law by not paying interns, and that it was important to inform viewers about the facts.

The researcher told her that the BBC duty lawyer was a bit worried by this, claiming it was merely "opinion", and preferred a general discussion about "whether internships should routinely be paid regardless of current law."

De Grunwald patiently tried to explain the rules governing the minimum wage, but by now it was apparent that the BBC wanted a more upbeat talk about internships. They cancelled their guest although they (or rather the licence-fee payer) stumped up for her train fare and hotel bill. De Grunwald did say she had a nice breakfast, without having to go on TV. "The BBC's coverage of the issue of unpaid internships is routinely appalling," she told The Guardian. "They minimise and trivialise every development that happens, it's infuriating."

The BBC said the cancellation was down to "editorial reasons". "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."

Blears is campaigning against exploitation of internships, particularly in the media. Hardly surprising that the nation's biggest media company might want to "challenge" that stance, although a public broadcaster should not really be manipulating debate in such a blatant fashion.

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