The speedboat is always the laughing horse in Bullseye. How many contestants in the ITV darts game show that aired from 1981 through 1995 had room in their lives or garage for the occasional Star Prize, the speedboat? (The Coventry Telegraph took Jim Bowen's 2012 slander to The Mirror, who has launched a local winners search in 2021.)
The Bullseye speedboat was its prize anomaly, a symbol of elegance and fun in a sea of hostess trolleys, sheepskin coats, and stainless steel cutlery. They then faced the Bully's Prize Board, where they threw nine darts in an attempt to win eight prizes, including the bullseye special. To share.
Bully's Prize Board is a fascinating time capsule of stuff that people coveted in the 1980s (weight benches, portable cassette players, slow cookers) and stuff that barely constitutes a prize (a pen and pencil, some Highland cake in a hamper, a teddy bear dressed like a Beefeater).
If you watched it at the time, or if you tune in to Freeview channel 48/Challenge, which broadcasts four hours of Bullseye a day, you may be unaware that the ITV game show was subject to strict legal restrictions on the cash value of its weekly prizes. Its pen and pencil presentation sets or knitting needle collections weren't stinginess, but sacrifices required to pay for more exciting prizes elsewhere — portable televisions, motor-scooters, etc.
The Independent Television Authority imposed a £1,000 limit on the amount of money that could be won on a commercial channel game program when it was established in 1955.
Over the years, the ITA has gradually increased its worth, becoming the Independent Broadcasting Authority, which was re-named in 1972. Between 1989 and 1992, the IBA restricted weekly winnings to no more than £5,000 per individual or a weekly total of £6,000.
The cash winnings (or prize equivalents) limit was in place for all commercial TV game programs on ITV, Channel 4, and satellite channels until 1993. Bullseye, The Price is Right, You Bet!, Play Your Cards Right, Blockbusters... all had to keep their budgets fairly rigid.
When it comes to TV, tens of thousands of pounds are given out for knowing that Paris is in France or that Henry VIII had six wives. That all started 30 years ago when game shows on commercial channels (so, not the BBC), could give away as much cash or equivalent in prizes as they desired. That led to the publication a few years later of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, which, just as the ITA and IBA had feared, would have brought the quiz show cheating scandal to a