BBC presenter sent cash to 'correct' her accent

Emma Woollacott
Steph McGovern
Steph McGovern

BBC Breakfast business editor Steph McGovern has revealed that she was sent £20 by a viewer to 'correct' her northern accent.

The presenter, originally from Middlesbrough, says the money arrived with a letter suggesting she use it for 'correction therapy' to fix her 'terrible affliction'.

Speaking to the Daily Express, McGovern said she's suffered prejudice over her voice for a long time.

"I think people tend to underestimate you when you have a Northern accent, for instance if you have to talk to the CEO of an international company," she said. "But then when I'm talking to someone in a factory, it's just like being with my mum's mates."

McGovern has previously described prejudice within the BBC too.

"I remember at the end of one BBC job interview being told by the manager, 'I didn't realise people like you were clever'. Sad, but true," she told the Radio Times.

"You would think that after nearly two years in the job, people would be used to my Teesside tones."

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Top 10 Sexiest Accents
Top 10 Sexiest Accents

Back in the early days of the BBC, having the 'right' accent was a prerequisite of the job. But over the years, the corporation has moved to include a far more representative range of voices. In 2010, Jana Bennett, director of BBC Vision, made this policy explicit, saying she wanted "distinctive voices with an authentic sense of place".

It's not a policy that's been popular with everybody. Stuart Hall and Sir Roger Moore criticised it at the time; more recently, Apprentice 'star' Katie Hopkins weighed in.

"Why should viewers have to listen intently to understand the content?" she asked Yahoo News. "You're watching something but you want to understand what's going on. To show that in a really heavy regional dialect is a strange idea."

And Hopkins is not alone. Last year, a survey for the Tonight programme revealed that more than a quarter of Britons feel they have been discriminated against because of the way they speak. And research carried out by law firm Peninsular found that 80% of employers admit to discriminating on the grounds of regional accents.

The research revealed that the most 'intelligent' accent is, unsurprisingly, 'posh' received pronunciation - although the Edinburgh accent makes you appear clever, too. The worst accents, it seems, are those from Liverpool, Birmingham and London.

"We have some of the poorest social mobility in Europe, but even I was shocked to discover that even the way we speak can make children feel like losers – before they really begin life's journey," said reporter Penny Marshall.

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