Sun, Sea and Bargain Spotting



Chris Gower (original host)

Angela Rippon


Experts: Mark Franks and Jonty Hearnden


Reef TV for BBC Two, 26 January 2004 to 15 May 2009 (95 episodes in 5 series)


Yet another permutation on the antiques game show, and one with an early contender for Worst Show Title 2005 to boot (the alliteration doesn't even work!). In this variation, the teams troop off across the Channel to buy their tat, rather than in Shepton Mallet. The punters get around £350 to buy at least 10 collectable items from shops in France, which they have to sell back in Blighty for a profit. The teams of two also have the assistance of an antiques dealer.

Image:Sun_sea_and_bargain_spotting_gang.jpgLeft to right: Franks, Gower and Hearnden

To be fair, the change of scenery does help this sustain the full one hour running time and increases the variety of objects for sale (please, no more church pews and penny licks!) However, you can't help feeling that these shows are beginning to hit epidemic proportions. Time to change the record, someone?

And then it all went wrong...

The show was suspended in 2009 after it emerged that a supposed "member of the public" who was shown buying an item from a contestant was in fact a cameraman on the show. After a BBC Trust investigation, the programme was found to have misled viewers (not just on this one episode but on multiple episodes across all five series), although it was noted that the BBC was unaware of the production company's practices, even though the programme's rules stated:

"Contributors, experts, production team and crew are not allowed to buy anything from the stands until one hour before the close of sales. After this time, they can buy items at cost price. Purchases by contributors or experts will not be added to the final scores."

The BBC Trust found that

[The Series Producer and Executive Producer]'s view at the time was that these were genuine sales. The staff members wanted the items for themselves and paid for them with their own money. (...) With hindsight both the EP and SP agree this practice did mislead the audience. The contributors and experts were all aware of the policy of allowing staff to buy items so no contributor was misled. [However] two of the on-screen purchases did affect the outcome of the challenge, causing a different contributor to win.
In addition there were many more staff purchases off camera – at least 3 or 4 per series, perhaps more, according to the Series Producer. Although it is likely that these off camera purchases were for small amounts (the bigger ticket items were usually featured in the show) Reef Television are unable to say with certainty that they didn’t affect the outcome of the challenge.
The rule that staff could only buy at ‘cost price’ was an important one for the Series Producer who felt this made the purchases ‘neutral’ in the game. This seemed to be a rule which was not always followed however as none of the filmed purchases were at cost price – two were for more than the cost price and five were for less. Even had the purchases all been at ‘cost price’ they would not have been ‘neutral’ as they clearly affected the final totals and could therefore have affected the outcome.

(The full report can be read at the BBC Trust website.)

After the conclusion of the investigation, it was confirmed that the programme, and another which was also found in breach of guidelines, Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is, would not be shown again.

Web links

Official site

See also

French Collection


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