Speaking for Ourselves

'My millionaire migrant boss' and the unemployed Brits who tried working in his hotel

'My millionaire migrant boss' and the unemployed Brits who tried working in his hotel

Daniel Nelson

 Migrant Voice -
 Migrant Voice - 'My millionaire migrant boss' and the unemployed Brits who tried working in his hotel

This article is the first of an occasional series by Migrant Voice in which migrants and those interested in migration issues comment on TV and radio programmes about migrants.



The set-up is simple: What happens to four unemployed Brits when an immigrant millionaire becomes their boss?


It seems like a positive approach. For a change, it features a successful migrant - Marwan Koukash, a Palestinian who arrived in the UK in 1976 with £200 in his pocket and is now reportedly a multi-millionaire. He worked as a bouncer, waiter and market trader before getting a PhD in electrical engineering, loves Britain, has a 26-year marriage to a British woman, and is hard-working.


Secondly, the focus is less on him and more on the unpreparedness for work of the four Britons who are given a two-week try-out in his hotel and at his racing stable.


In addition, more than half the hotel staff are migrants, who are portrayed as determinedly and uncomplainingly willing to put in long-hours and to work to the highest standards.


All these points contrast with the British media's often negative image of migrants.


And, indeed, most tabloid coverage of the programme has concentrated on one of the four triallists, 18-year-old Georgia from Merseyside who repeatedly arrives late for work. Put to work cleaning rooms, she half-heartedly wipes a mirror with a lavatory brush and mocks the insistence on tucking in sheets in a particular way. She's the only one of the four who Marwan fires. Some viewers claimed the editing of the programme exaggerated her weaknesses.

It's as though, when faced with two of their favourite targets - migrants and the unemployed - the tabloids chose to lambaste the latter (which doesn't mean that on another day they won't pick on migrants).


Watching the four Brits agonisingly struggling to come to terms with the tasks presented by Marwan is entertaining, but raises the question of how they were selected. Did they get through a proper job interview, or were they handpicked for the programme in order to highlight various weaknesses and attitudes that contrasted vividly with those of Marwan? It looks like the latter, which is a reminder of the many ways that media can keep control of a story, magnify stereotypes and create and influence public images of issues such as migration.


Marwan has benefitted a hatful of publicity for his hotel and his businesses in general and has been the subject of positive profiles in the Coventry Telegraph, Liverpool Echo and Daily Mail. The only criticism I've seen was that it was crude to invite the four low-paid workers to a meal in his palatial home to lecture them on his rags-to-riches story. He, of course, argues that he was trying to motivate them and underline his message that success is possible if you work frenetically hard.

Like many self-made men, Marwan is confident in his views, assumes success comes his character and abilities, and that his wealth validates his prescriptions for others. It's easy to see how some bolshie young Brits might not react well. The four Brits selected for this programme have apparently never met anyone like him, and maybe the same goes for most viewers. So there's an element of broadening horizons here, and overall, though the programme set out to make a point and is shallow entertainment rather than solid information, it offers an hour of prime time television that puts a job-creating migrant in the lens.


* My Millionaire Migrant Bosss was on Channel 4 on 8 February, will be shown again on 13 February at midnight20, and is available online until 8 March (http://www.channel4.com/programmes/my-millionaire-migrant-boss)


+ Who is Marwan Koukash? 



+ Who is Channel 4's My Millionaire Migrant Boss Marwan Koukash?



+ My Millionaire Migrant Boss star is slammed by viewers



+ Is She For Rea?



+ Wednesday's best TV: My Millionaire Migrant Boss; A Stitch in Time ...