Simon Cowell’s Company Advertised For Unpaid Interns

A joint venture between SyCo and YouTube asked for staff to work for expenses only in central London.

1. Simon Cowell’s business has been caught advertising for “keen as mustard” unpaid interns to work in central London.

Kevin Winter / Getty Images

2. Staff at “You Generation”, an online video-sharing competition organised by Cowell’s Syco Entertainment and YouTube, posted the Facebook advert on 10 January.

“Looking for keen as mustard new interns for We’re based in central London and can pay expenses, with a lunch allowance. Great chance for people wanting to gain experience working on a fast turn around online channel. Feel free to share to anyone you think it might suit.”

3. When potential interns challenged the decision to advertise an unpaid role at the company – which could conflict with British minimum wage law – the member of staff admitted that there was little prospect of full-time employment.

we aren’t bringing in interns specifically with a view to hiring someone, but as you know in the industry it’s great to make contacts, and things do change.

4. And they said the internships would involve trying “a variety of roles” at the organisation.

we’re a very small team so don’t keep a [runner] on staff. An intern role is more varied than a runner - we’re looking for people who will get to try a variety of roles and get generalised experience, rather than just a runner position.

The advert, posted on a Facebook group entitled “OMG, we work in telly… but we’re nice” was spotted by the careers website Graduate Fog, which shared it with BuzzFeed.

Graduate Fog has previously revealed how the Cowell-backed X-Factor employed unpaid interns for three months at a time. Following the publicity the interns received £3,000 in back pay.

A spokesman for Sony, which runs Syco with Cowell, told BuzzFeed that the advert for unpaid workers at “You Generation” was “a mistake” that was removed after four days and they would not be hiring any interns as a result of it. The company said it also offers a paid internship programme.

One of the final comments on the “You Generation” job advert, posted shortly before it was removed, read: “If you are considering applying for this please make sure you understand the rules about unpaid work experience in the UK. This isn’t some poor startup either - syco entertainment is owned by Simon Cowell. PAY YOUR WORKERS.”

6. Graduate Fog’s Tanya de Grunwald said she still had concerns about the advert.

If we had not challenged SyCo, would these positions have gone ahead as planned? If these internships were not in line with Syco’s company policy, how on earth did they get as far as being advertised publicly? How was this staff member in a position to recruit interns, without being aware of company policy and the law? And how can they reassure us that this will not happen again?

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Jim Waterson is a politics editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
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