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May 21, 2014updated 22 May 2014 3:38pm

A poorly managed Orwellian holiday camp? Employer reviews website provides insight into life at the BBC

By William Turvill

The BBC has been described as "bureaucratic", "Orwellian" and a "holiday camp" by its employees in a series of anonymous reviews of the corporation.

While current and former employees praise the work-life balance offered by working at the BBC, the management structure is criticised by many.

More than 130 reviews of the corporation have been collected together on the Glassdoor website, which aims to give prospective employees an insight into companies.

The BBC scores 3.5 stars out of five from employees,  with 78 per cent recommending it to others as an employer

Internal training opportunities, high-class facilities and the reputation of the BBC were cited as pluses for employees. But the importance of unions, poor pay and a lack of opportunities for progression were among those frequently highlighted as negatives.

One anonymous employee, who worked at the BBC for ten years and praised its journalism, described it as "the worst employer I have ever worked for".

They added: "It relies on its name and former reputation to keep salaries down. Bullying by managers is rife. Working hours often intolerable. There is no development of staff.

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"It operates on the basis of 'the old school tie' with those from Oxbridge or the well connected occupying senior roles.”

Along with looking good on a CV, one of the main reasons employees like the corporation is the good work-life balance on offer.

"Compared to other companies I've worked at it was like being in a holiday camp,” said one current systems engineer, writing in January.

“Compared to any other IT job I've had the work life balance was amazing. No one expected anyone to work anything more than 9-5. At 5 o'clock the office would empty out within 5 minutes.

“I've not worked anywhere else like this – most IT places will have you working 9-10 hours a day but not the BBC. As well as this no one batted an eyelid if you wanted to work from home for extended periods.”

But they said working at the BBC was “terrible for just about everything else”.

An operations organiser, meanwhile, said:

This really is the ideal place to hibernate, pull up a chair, make yourself a cup of tea and don’t get into any discussion with the wealth of passive aggressive long termers that can readily be found about the place. They won’t be moved, like glacier rocks there since last the world was frozen.”

Management throughout the organisation was criticised by the majority of reviewers.

One current producer said: “Many managers' lack of knowledge, charisma, leadership skills, and experience mean they feel easily threatened by experienced, confident and creative specialist staff.”

Asked for their advice to senior managers, they said:

Unless there is a hidden agenda to destroy this fine and beloved organisation (which of course there may be), please think more carefully about those you appoint to managerial roles.

"Public money should not be used to maintain private fiefdoms: prove your own worth as leaders and sweep away the BS-artists, the brown-nosers and the bullies.”

A former senior broadcast journalist said: “End the culture of impunity for senior managers. The ones who make serious mistakes or don't do anything should be fired, not promoted sideways.”

Meanwhile, a technology editor, who described the corporation as a “monumentally cumbersome bureaucracy”, gave the following advice to senior management: “Leave… There is no adequate leadership at senior management level and the BBC is scared of challenging the government or anyone else for that matter.

"Programming is more and more pedestrian and lacks the edge the BBC has come to be known for. It is little more than a commissioning house.”

A current news director said: “The management, with a very few exceptions, are absolutely terrible.”

They added:

Management is mainly by email. Some managers have very little understanding what their staff do day day and the contribution they make to the output. The audience is supposed to be at the heart everything we do, I see very little evidence of that.

“What Sky News does, what the tabloids lead with and what focus groups claim to want appears to dictate the daily agenda.”

A current engineer described the experience of working there in the past as a “bureaucratic nightmare”. While they said it had a “laid back atmosphere”, they said there were “too many managers… meetings [and] red tape”.

Another former employee of ten years described it as a “Byzantine management culture”. Their advice was: “Invest in reporters and producers – not in managers!”

The one senior manager who filled in a review form admitted that “bureaucracy” was a problem at the BBC but also criticised “obsessive public scrutiny from political opponents”.

Elsewhere, a current project manager said:

The culture is part university and part civil service. There is very little fear of failure because there is usually no consequence of failure. If you are coming from the private sector and are used to working with commercial goals in mind, then you might not want to stay too long for fear of losing your edge; apathy can be infectious.”

The BBC was also accused of hypocrisy with regards to its commitment to employ minority groups.

A former employee said: “There is a lot of hot air about diversity but most action is relatively tokenist.

"It is definitely a very white, middle class organisation dominated by people with a classical educational background.”

In all, 24 out of 133 people reviewing the BBC awarded it 5 stars, with ten of those criticising bureacracy or management. Some 43 rated it with 4 stars, 42 gave it three stars, 17 rated it at two stars and seven gave it the lowest rating, one star.

Elsewhere on the Glassdoor website, Channel 4 scored an average of 4.6 stars (from seven reviews), Sky 3.2 (from 162 reviews), ITV 3.1 (from 18 reviews) and ITN three (from three reviews).

Press Gazette has so far researched BBC in the most depth because it is the biggest media organisation in the UK, employing 8,000 editorial staff in BBC News alone.

A BBC spokesman said: "We're pleased that so many people enjoy working at the BBC and note that we have received higher scores in every category than the publishers of the Press Gazette."

Press Gazette is published by Progressive Media International which is not reviewed on Glassdoor, however there are seven reviews for parent group Progressive Media Group, which give it an average rating of three stars out of five.

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