Is it the BBC's fault that Bargain Hunt is so popular?

I have a confession to make. I watch BBC’s antiques competition, Bargain Hunt, three times a week. Perversely, I watch it with the volume turned down, reading the sub-titles (I’m on the treadmill in the gym at the time).

It’s a strange programme, because, as my lifelong auctioneer father often says, in exasperation:

They’re going the wrong way!

What he means is, that prices are lower at auctions than flea markets/boot sales. So, if you buy some things at an auction, you can earn good money on them at a boot sale. But if you go the other way, you are often on a hiding to nothing.

Which, I suppose, makes the programme exciting. In the rare event that a competitor makes a profit, you do feel that they have really achieved something special.

And I can’t resist mentioning that Tim Wonnacott (who has been the regular presenter but it is now being, very slowly, phased out) went to my school, a few years before me.

Anyway, the reason for writing about this staple of the BBC 1 daytime schedules is because it has been mentioned in dispatches. Apparently:

It encapsulates much of what culture secretary John Whittingdale thinks is wrong with BBC1.

The recent white paper on the BBC mentioned that Bargain Hunt is in its 43rd series, which when considered alongside other “old faithful” property and collectibles programmes, also on the channel in the daytime, means that BBC1 has become “less innovative and risk-taking”.

Here’s the thing. A repeat episode of Bargain Hunt last week, shown at lunchtime, was seen by 1.75 million viewers, compared with 1.5 million for the flagship drama, Peaky Blinders, shown at 9pm.

So, in 2000, the BBC created an interesting and entertaining programme on antiques. People loved it and watched it in droves, so they kept on making it and people kept on loving it and watching it. And that is a problem?

Perhaps the problem is that Bargain Hunt is shown alongside a succession of long-running shows such as “Homes under the Hammer”. But similarly, “Homes under the Hammer” is an interesting and entertaining programme which people love and watch in droves.

So why is making popular programmes a problem? Especially as, at the same time as Bargain Hunt, the BBC is broadcasting all sorts of worthy and fascinating programmes on other TV channels, radio stations and via iPlayer?

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