11/10/2013 05:37 BST | Updated 11/10/2013 06:16 BST

Dragons' Den, The Apprentice Put Young People Off Business, Says Entrepreneur


The Apprentice and Dragons' Den TV shows may be putting young people off becoming entrepreneurs by showing a caricature of business life, one of Britain's top entrepreneurs has warned.

Luke Johnson, best known for his expansion of the Pizza Express restaurant chain and former chairmanship of Channel 4, called on the media to portray entrepreneurs in a more "positive and optimistic" fashion.

Three-quarters of small businesspeople taking part in a survey for Johnson's Centre for Entrepreneurs were critical of the TV business shows, he said.

Johnson, now chairman of private equity firm Risk Capital Partners, said the new Centre would provide a voice for small businesses and promote debate on reforming regulation and the finance system to encourage start-ups.

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He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I think we need to educate the media and politicians and the public that entrepreneurs really matter because they create an awful lot of the new jobs, they are disproportionately important in innovation and we want to understand them more, we want to encourage more of them, and we want to help them."

"Unfortunately, in our survey about 75% of entrepreneurs we talked to said they thought the shows portrayed entrepreneurs in a caricature way and I think that's unfortunate, because it can be off-putting and it discourages.

"Ideally what we should be doing is inspiring more young people to start a business - or people of any age indeed - to help create growth."

Johnson added: "We need to help change the culture over time, and that means portraying the more positive, optimistic side of entrepreneurship."

dragons den deborah meaden

Ex-Dragon James Caan, with Theo Paphitis, Evan Davis, Deborah Meaden, Peter Jones and Duncan Bannatyne

Johnson said the Centre for Entrepreneurs will be "a voice to help counteract the big business voice - the CBI and so on. We are going to represent the smaller, newer businesses which are a big proportion of the private sector in the UK."

And he added: "I think we need a debate about whether regulation is appropriate across the piece, so that a two-man business suffers the same health and safety and employment legislation that a 20,000-man business does. I think we need to work out whether the finance system we have for small businesses is the best we can."

Ex-Dragon James Caan told the Huffington Post UK: "Remember that TV shows are made for entertainment! The individual viewer has a choice that they can make a decision as to what sort of show they want to watch is appropriate."

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