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Unscrupulous prodco tempts colonial to mislead BBC

Craig Harman, son of TV3 chair Brent Harman, worked as a cameraman for Reef Television on season 5 of Sun, Sea and Bargain Spotting, except when he was posing as a member of the public. Reef was suspended by the BBC while an investigation was carried out.

Screened on BBC earlier this year, the show is one of three produced by Reef for the Beeb which have come under considerable scrutiny for engaging in dodgy and unacceptable practices. Trash For Cash and Dealers: Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is were the other shows investigated.

Using crew, friends and reshooting scenes, Reef affected the outcomes of ‘unscripted’ shows and misled both the BBC and its audiences in contravention of BBC guidleines. Breaches included off-screen purchases by production staff that affected on-screen challenges, and restaging actual events in which the genuine participant did not appear.

Allegations were made against the show earlier in the year, at which time Reef apologised unreservedly for getting caught (after being suspended) but the BBC Trust investigation ploughed on, only to uncover even more breaches of its standards than were originally alleged.

The BBC Trust guidelines state: “We should not distort known facts, present invented material as fact, or knowingly do anything to mislead our audiences” and “…unless clearly signalled to the audience, or using reconstructions, it is normally unacceptable in news and factual programmes to stage or re-stage significant action or events.”

BBC Trust’s Editorial Standards Committee chair, Richard Tait, said, “The practices routinely misled the audience and are totally unacceptable. We know they directly undermine the public’s trust.”

BBC and Reef have reached an undisclosed financial settlement, and Reef’s suspension has now been lifted.

The BBC’s statement on the outcome of its investigation is here.

As part of the action taken following the investigation, BBC has undertaken not to broadcast the offending programmes again. Sun, Sea and Bargain Spotting is due to broadcast here on The Living Channel.

Not surprisingly, Reef’s website contains no references to the whole sordid business, but it does have an Ethos page, which says: “Reef is committed to giving its young talent the breaks to flourish. We actively seek out staff from all backgrounds and encourage their development at every stage of their career.”

Naifs, colonial or otherwise, can apply for work here.