Watchdog (TV programme)

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Watchdog
Watchdog Title Card (2017).jpg
The title card used in 2017, featuring the addition of "Live", referring to episodes being broadcast live when aired.
GenreInvestigative Journalism
Directed byJaco Smith
Mark Harrison
Keir MacKenzie
Presented byMatt Allwright
Nikki Fox
Steph McGovern
(See full list)
Theme music composerMusic 4
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original language(s)English
No. of series41 (inc. daytime)
No. of episodes1084
Production
Executive producer(s)Lisa Ausden
Producer(s)Helen Collins
Michelle Cox
Emma Jay
Production location(s)BBC Television Centre (1980–2012)
The Hospital Club (2013—2015)
Broadcasting House (2016)
dock10, MediaCityUK (2017–)
Editor(s)Jeff Anderson
Running time60 minutes
Release
Original networkBBC One
Picture format
Original release14 July 1985 (1985-07-14) – present
Chronology
Related showsRogue Traders
Watchdog Test House
External links
Website

Watchdog is a British consumer investigative journalism programme, broadcast on BBC One since 1985. The programme is focused on investigating complaints and concerns made by viewers and consumers over problematic experiences with traders, retailers and other companies around the UK, over customer services, products, security, and possible fraudulent/criminal behaviour. Since it first began, the programme has achieved great success in changing the awareness consumers have of their purchasing rights, as well as pushing forward for changes in company policies and consumer laws, and in some cases helping to close down businesses whose practices have left many people dissatisfied and out of pocket. The show is most notable for its longstanding slogan that it is "the programme you cannot afford to miss".

In the course of its history, Watchdog has spawned a number of spin-off shows, and be presented by a variety of hosts. Its current presenting line-up consists of Matt Allwright, Nikki Fox and Steph McGovern.

History[edit]

Watchdog was first shown on 8 September 1980, as a pre-recorded weekly feature for BBC One's news magazine programme Nationwide,[1] with Hugh Scully, best known for presenting the Antiques Roadshow, being its first host.[citation needed] After Nationwide ended in 1983, Scully continued hosting the feature on Sixty Minutes until the show's final episode in 1984. A year later, the BBC decided to make a stand-alone version of the feature, with its first episode aired on 14 July 1985. The programme's first series was aired weekly on Sunday evenings, and presented by Nick Ross and Lynn Faulds Wood.[2] The following year, the programme was rescheduled to weekday daytime broadcasts, with Ross replaced by Faulds Wood's husband, John Stapleton; the programme's new schedule was considered by Michael Grade, the BBC One Programme Controller in 1986, as helpful to defying the laws of "television gravity" by boosting viewer figures for the launch of BBC Daytime.[3] In 1987, the BBC reverted the programme back to being a weekly programme on Sunday evenings, but with the addition of repeats being shown the following day during the daytime.

A year later, in 1988, the programme received another rescheduling that saw it broadcast on Mondays during both daytime and peaktime slots, but with a significant change in focus on its format. Unlike previous years, Watchdog began to employ a more forceful approach in consumer investigations, including investigating big businesses and conducting more investigative journalism. Changing their approach with their investigations led to the programme achieving many multi-million pound product recalls by companies, the recovery of £19 million in overpaid fuel surcharges on package holidays, while also regularly featuring major name companies who had let down customers.[4] By January 1989, peaktime audiences of the show averaged around 6 million, leading the BBC to drop daytime broadcasts as a direct result. Both Faulds Wood and Stapleton remained with the programme into the early 90s until the former was diagnosed with advanced bowel cancer; after she was treated and had recovered from the condition, both Faulds Wood and Stapleton left the programme, to conduct a series of journalistic investigations for ITV's World in Action.[5][6]

For the 1993 series, the BBC decided upon assigning Anne Robinson as the new host of Watchdog. This decision had a slightly significant change in focus brought about by Robinson's style of presenting, including her approach to interviews with notable figures from within the companies featured in investigations on the programme. For her first series, she was teamed up with Simon Walton and Alice Beer, the latter having been an assistant producer until she was brought on as a co-presenter, assigned with being a link between the consumers (on the phone in earlier years, and e-mail in later years) and the main presenter. Walton left after the first series, while Beer remained until 1999, whereupon she was replaced by Charlotte Hudson, who remained until 2001.[citation needed] Because of her workload requiring her to be present with hosting the British and American versions of The Weakest Link, Robinson also left the programme that same year. Following Robinson's departure, the BBC replaced her with Nicky Campbell as the programme's main presenter, with Paul Heiney joining a year later as a regular co-presenter of his team; additional co-presenters in the team were changed during Campbell's tenure, and included Ashley Blake, Saima Mohsin, Nick Lawrence, and Dan Penteado. Between 2001-2004, Campbell was joined by Kate Sanderson as the other main presenter of the programme, while between 2005-2009, he was joined by Julia Bradbury, who was temporarily replaced during her last series in 2009 by Anita Rani between 6 February and 20 April;[7][8] Rani was retained as a reporter following this, taking the place of Mohsin.

On 10 May 2009, the BBC announced plans to relaunch the format for Watchdog, which included bringing back Anne Robinson to host the programme, and extending the length of episodes from thirty minutes to one hour.[9] In order to make this extension, the decision was made to incorporate the format of another consumer show, Rogue Traders, as a multi-part segment of the same name, with Matt Allwright becoming a part of the presenting team alongside Robinson and Anita Rani. His co-presenter, Dan Penteado, was retained, but worked mainly within the films for the new segment. The new series of Watchdog under this new format, began airing on 10 September 2009. In 2010, Rani left the programme, leading to her being replaced by Chris Hollins. In July 2012, Dan Penteado was sacked from the programme, after it was uncovered that he had fraudulently claimed £25,000 in benefits during his work as a co-presenter, to which he was later found guilty of benefit fraud at Bournemouth Magistrates' Court and jailed for 12 weeks.[10] On 12 November 2012, the BBC launched a daytime companion show, entitled Watchdog Daily, for weekday mornings, which ran for 4 weeks.[11][12] In March 2014, the BBC launched another daytime companion show called Watchdog Test House, which was presented by Sophie Raworth, with former host Faulds Wood assisting as a reporter.

On 10 September 2015, after having spent a total of 15 years presenting the programme, Robinson left the programme to focus on her commitments to assisting with the production of BBC's Britain's Spending Secrets.[13] Her departure led to Raworth replacing her as the new host, with Michelle Ackerley joining alongside her, Collins and Allright. On 22 June 2016, Hollins announced his decision to step down as co-host, whereupon after his departure, Allright was reassigned as one of the main presenters alongside Raworth, while Ackerly was demoted to being a co-presenter, with Nikki Fox and Steph McGovern being added to the lineup, with the show being moved to a temporary studio at dock10, MediaCityUK. In 2017, Raworth and Ackerly left the programme, leading to McGovern joining Allright as a main presenter; the show was given a more permanent studio at dock10 for the 2017 series.

Format[edit]

Watchdog primarily consists of films involving journalistic investigations into consumer complaints, brought to the attention of the programme's research team by viewers and customers, in which the general basis of the investigation is to look into issues, concerns and complaints made about businesses and companies in regards to products/services offered, the quality of customer care, and other concerns/issues/problems that have arisen of late. Films usually consist of one or two major components - tests conducted by the research team, into various aspects such as quality, value for money, safety and hygiene, and so forth; and interviews with some of the consumers who contacted the programme, in regards to their experience with the company/business connected to the investigation that the interviewee had dealings with, what concerns and worries they have about a product/service they purchased and their overall general opinion of the business. The film is usually presented to viewers by either one of Watchdog's current presenters, or a reporter for the programme, who gives out a general overlay of the matter being investigated, and conducts interviews with the consumers that were affected. Towards the end of the film, a response from the businesses/companies involved (if provided) is often given, which can include their views on the programme's findings, if any issues raised have been dealt with, and if the consumers featured on the programme have had their complaints dealt with. If the programme puts forward their findings to any regulatory bodies connected to the product/service offered, including Trading Standards, they will also read out a response from them, including any consumer advice regarding the issues featured in the film.

In some investigations, hidden cameras are used to record specific areas of the investigation, that are done in secret by the research team; an example of this is when researchers pose as customers, go to different branches of a business under investigation, and secretly record a conversation between themselves and a number of employees they randomly approach, mainly on answers given in regards to consumer inquires they make (i.e. "What is the cooling down period for returning an item if we aren't satisfied?"). In a number of investigations where multiple companies/businesses are being investigated on the same aspects under investigation, researchers will usually conduct secret testing on multiple branches used by each business/company being investigated, to which their findings in regards to concerns and/or failings on anything (such as hygiene, safety, and customer service for example), are revealed during the film, including a comparison between the branches visited and how they match up to findings made in the other branches.

In some cases, company representatives are invited to discuss the consumer problems that were investigated by Watchdog, although a number frequently turn down the offer. However, many companies use the opportunity to voice their own opinions and thoughts on the subject of the investigation, some of whom also take advantage of the situation to offer full apologies and refunds to affected customers. From the start of 2000, company interviewees invited to take part in the programme are commonly given advice by media advisers before they are filmed.

With the increased use of social media and e-mail, and later series now being made live, Watchdog now allows viewers to not only offer up stories on products and services for the programme to investigate, but also allows them to give personal opinions and comment about experiences on stories featured in the show. These are usually read out towards the latter half of the programme.

Presenters[edit]

Duration Lead presenter(s) Co-presenter(s)
1980–84 Hugh Scully N/A
1985–86 Nick Ross and Lynn Faulds Wood
1986–93 Lynn Faulds Wood and John Stapleton
1993–94 Anne Robinson Alice Beer and Simon Walton
1994–99 Alice Beer
1999–2001 Charlotte Hudson
2001–02 Nicky Campbell and Kate Sanderson N/A
2002–04 Paul Heiney and Ashley Blake
2004–05 Paul Heiney and Saima Mohsin
2005–08 Nicky Campbell and Julia Bradbury Paul Heiney and Nick Lawrence
2008–09 Nicky Campbell
Julia Bradbury (episodes 1–16 and 26–30)
Anita Rani (episodes 17–25)
Paul Heiney and Dan Penteado
2009–10 Anne Robinson Anita Rani, Matt Allwright and Dan Penteado
2010–12 Chris Hollins, Matt Allwright and Dan Penteado
2012–15 Chris Hollins and Matt Allwright
2015 Sophie Raworth and Michelle Ackerley
2016 Sophie Raworth and Matt Allwright Michelle Ackerley, Steph McGovern and Nikki Fox
2017–present Matt Allwright and Steph McGovern Nikki Fox

Notable investigations[edit]

Fitted plugs[edit]

In the late 1980s, Watchdog investigations showed that numerous accidents were caused when the electrical plugs on new electrical appliances were incorrectly wired.[14] At the time, all new electrical goods were sold with bare wires and customers were expected to fit plugs themselves. These investigations led to a British law forcing all manufacturers selling electrical products in the UK to supply them with fitted plugs.[15]

Hoover free flights[edit]

In 1992 and 1993, The Hoover Company introduced a "free flights" offer whereby any customer spending over £100 would receive two free flights to New York City. Due to an overwhelming response, many people did not receive their tickets and were denied the opportunity to take their free flights. After hundreds of complaints to Watchdog, an investigation by reporter Simon Walton revealed that the company in charge of processing applications was trying to deny customers their free flights in an effort to stem the rising costs. This quickly became headline news and Hoover were forced to give all customers the flights, costing them an estimated £40 million and the jobs of all the board members.[16]

Auction World.tv[edit]

Television sales channel Auction World.tv failed to deliver goods or offer refunds to over 27,000 customers in the early 2000s, and were fined £450,000 by the regulatory body OFCOM.[17] Investigations by Watchdog forced refunds and the closure of the channel, and traced the owner to Cyprus, where he refused to answer questions.[18]

The Accident Group[edit]

This company was exposed by Watchdog after secret filming revealed it was encouraging members of the public to make bogus claims for personal injury compensation.[citation needed] As a result, The Accident Group went out of business, sacking its staff by sending them text messages.[19]

Direct Kitchens, Kitchens and Maple Industries[edit]

Direct Kitchens, Kitchens and Maple Industries are all companies that are or have been based at Maple Mill, in Oldham, Greater Manchester and headed by controversial entrepreneur Vance Miller. The companies have been investigated by Watchdog on several occasions. Miller, who has a string of convictions in several countries,[20] has been branded by the media as the "Kitchen Gangster", became the first person in Britain to be handed a ‘Stop Now’ order by the Office of Fair Trading after consistently supplying kitchens which were not sold as advertised.[citation needed]

Transmissions[edit]

Series Start date End date Episodes
1 14 July 1985 6 October 1985 13
2 15 November 1987 23 May 1988 24
3 3 October 1988 10 April 1989
4 4 September 1989 18 December 1989 16
5 1 October 1990 4 February 1991 17
6 30 September 1991 13 April 1992 24
7 7 September 1992 5 April 1993 28
8 6 September 1993 23 May 1994 35
9 5 September 1994 1 May 1995 32
10 4 September 1995 25 March 1996 28
11 5 September 1996 27 March 1997 29
12 4 September 1997 9 April 1998 40
13 10 September 1998 8 April 1999 29
14 9 September 1999 4 May 2000 34
15 5 October 2000 26 April 2001 29
16 13 September 2001 9 April 2002
17 3 September 2002 6 May 2003 30
18 2 September 2003 27 April 2004
19 7 September 2004 12 April 2005
20 6 September 2005 9 May 2006 34
21 3 October 2006 2 May 2007 29
22 3 October 2007 12 May 2008 30
23 13 October 2008 18 May 2009
24 10 September 2009 12 November 2009 10
25 6 May 2010 10 June 2010
26 9 September 2010 25 November 2010
27 7 April 2011 26 May 2011 8
28 1 September 2011 20 October 2011
29 15 March 2012 3 May 2012
30 12 September 2012 31 October 2012
31 1 May 2013 19 June 2013 8
32 18 September 2013 6 November 2013
33 14 May 2014 2 July 2014 7
34 16 October 2014 4 December 2014 8
35 7 May 2015 25 June 2015
36 8 October 2015 3 December 2015
37 2 November 2016 21 December 2016
38 28 June 2017 2 August 2017 6
39 18 April 2018 23 May 2018
40 31 October 2018 12 December 2018

Spin-offs[edit]

  • Watchdog Healthcheck – 1995 to 2002, about health matters
Series Start date End date Episodes Main host
1 15 May 1995 3 July 1995 8 Judith Hann
2 15 April 1996 17 June 1996
3 24 April 1997 19 June 1997 Alice Beer
4 5 January 1998 9 February 1998 6
5 20 July 1998 24 August 1998 4
6 4 January 1999 29 March 1999 12
7 19 July 1999 14 February 2000
8 26 June 2000 21 August 2000 9 Gaby Roslin
9 8 January 2001 19 February 2001 7
10 4 June 2001 12 July 2001 Kate Sanderson
11 7 January 2002 25 February 2002 8 Gaby Roslin
  • Weekend Watchdog – 1997 to 2001, presented by Robinson (Allwright and Hudson for the final series)
Series Start date End date Episodes
1 25 April 1997 13 June 1997 8
2 5 September 1997 19 December 1997 17
3 13 March 1998 5 June 1998 13
4 11 September 1998 18 December 1998 14
5 19 March 1999 4 June 1999 11
6 10 September 1999 17 December 1999 14
7 17 March 2000 14 July 2000 15
8 6 October 2000 26 January 2001 14
9 23 March 2001 15 June 2001 12
Series Start date End date Episodes
10 July 1995 1
1 24 June 1996 20 August 1996 7
2 26 June 1997 28 August 1997 10
3 16 July 1998 27 August 1998 6
4 16 July 1999 3 September 1999 8
5 5 July 2000 4 October 2000 12
  • Face Value – about the fashion industry, presented by Alice Beer
Series Start date End date Episodes
1 6 January 1997 10 February 1997 6
2 3 June 1999 9 July 1999
Series Start date End date Episodes
15 January 1998 1
1 28 May 1998 15 July 1998 5
Series Start date End date Episodes
1 16 April 1998 21 May 1998 6
2 22 April 1999 27 May 1999
  • Watchdog: Are You Being Served? – 15 April 1999, presented by Alice Beer
  • Watchdog Daily – live and interactive series in which Sophie Raworth takes on the big household-names, getting results and showing viewers how they can fight back
Series Start date End date Episodes
1 12 November 2012 7 December 2012 20

Specials[edit]

  • How To Save £1000 (15 January 2015) – BBC One
  • Pension Special (5 November 2015) – BBC Red Button

Related programmes[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Nationwide - BBC One London - 8 September 1980 - BBC Genome
  2. ^ The Times (London, England), "Television and Radio" Saturday 13 July 1985
  3. ^ The Times (London, England), Monday, 24 November 1986
  4. ^ The Times (London, England), Monday, 4 January 1988; pg. 17
  5. ^ Doctor Knows Best on IMDb
  6. ^ Bobby Moore & Me on IMDb
  7. ^ "Julia statement". Watchdog. BBC. 15 April 2009. Archived from the original on 23 April 2009.
  8. ^ "Asian journalist Anita Rani replaces Julia Bradbury as Watchdog host" Thaindian News, 3 March 2009
  9. ^ Anne Robinson returns to Watchdog Digital Spy, 10 May 2009
  10. ^ "BBC Rogue Traders' Dan Penteado jailed for benefit fraud". BBC. 12 July 2012. Retrieved 4 June 2015.
  11. ^ [1] Watchdog on Twitter
  12. ^ [2] Watchdog on Twitter
  13. ^ "Anne Robinson to step down from Watchdog". BBC Media Centre. Retrieved 10 September 2015.
  14. ^ "25 years of Watchdog". 7 January 2005. Retrieved 30 March 2015.
  15. ^ "The Plugs and Sockets etc. (Safety) Regulations 1994". HM Government. Retrieved 30 March 2015.
  16. ^ "A Bloody Dust Up". Promo Magazine. 1 October 2005. Archived from the original on 5 December 2008. all England agrees that Hoover's Free Travel Offer was the worst promotion in British history
  17. ^ "TV auction channel shuts up shop". BBC News. 23 November 2004. Retrieved 30 March 2015.
  18. ^ "TV show tracks down Auction World boss". Hertfordshire Mercury. 22 April 2005. Retrieved 30 March 2015.
  19. ^ Bust company sacks workers by text BBC News, 30 May 2003
  20. ^ Customs seize £66k from Miller as he boards China flight Oldham Advertiser Archived 6 December 2006 at the Wayback Machine.

External links[edit]