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The response follows extensive criticism from subscribers via our Letters page, where much of the debate has centred on the generous discounts of 50 per cent or more that ‘contestants’ receive when buying from the nation’s antique fairs and shops.

Executive producer Wendy Rattray of STV Productions, who is preparing the next series, denies suggestions that deals agreed on the programme between contestants and dealers are manipulated by her production team.

ATG readers had opined that the knock-down prices often paid after bartering between ‘experts’ and dealer set an unwelcome example to the viewing public. In a raft of correspondence published as the second series aired on BBC 2 in February, there was widespread support for Dr Geoff Smaldon of Oxfordshire who – allowing for the notion that this was entertainment and not to be taken too seriously – wrote: “There seems to be a campaign in the screen-based media to bring the trade to its knees: The Antiques Road Trip gives yet again the impression that dealers get their stock for nothing and thus are happy to give someone 50 per cent discount or more on the ticket price.”

James O’Sullivan of Cardiff took issue with a format that asks the contestants to buy retail and sell wholesale. “I look forward to similar future programmes in which contestants buy brand new cars at dealerships and then try to make a profit by selling them to the second-hand car dealer down the road,” he quipped.

Wendy Rattray defended the programme, saying: “I acknowledge that our experts push very hard to get the best deal possible, which sometimes results in them getting deals which have been perceived by some as being unrealistic. The deal is mutually agreed between our expert and the dealer, the production team never become involved in this and there is absolutely no suggestion or pressure on any dealer to accept a price that they are unhappy with – in fact many dealers often do turn down offers.”

Mrs Rattray also pledged her “wholehearted support for the antiques trade” and argued the positive benefits of a show format that endeavours “to visit villages and shops in out of the way places that are not normally featured on TV, usually because they are not easy to get to on a tight filming schedule”.

In preparation for series three and four, the production company are also looking at building an accompanying website which lists all the shops and centres that are used in filming in the hope it may prompt some viewers to go out and explore the shops themselves.

Certainly participants in the first and second series of the show, have been among the trade’s defenders of The Antiques Road Trip.

K.D. Antiques in Chester and the St Martin’s Antiques Centre in Stamford wrote in its defence, complimenting the producers on their professionalism and welcoming the publicity that led to a significant increase in footfall.

“There is a feeling that the presence of a film crew ‘encourages’ dealers to drop their prices. Isn’t it more likely that the dealer appreciates the value of free publicity and has little concern about the loss of a few pounds in return?” wrote Peter Light of St Martin’s.

By Roland Arkell