Dragons' Den, the popular series where unknown entrepreneurs broker deals with celebrity investors, regularly attracts more than 3 million viewers to BBC Two.
The programme, which has helped launch brands like Levi Roots Reggae Reggae Sauce and Magic Whiteboard, sees several seemingly ordinary contestants pitch their ideas to a panel of five wealthy investors, hoping to secure financial investment for a stake of the company in return.
According to a report in today's The Mail on Sunday, all is not quite what is seems with the hit BBC show. It appears that many of the unknown entrepreneurs aren't actually that unknown at all, with almost half of those featuring in the current fourteenth series having been specially groomed to appear.
The Mail continues: "Scott Cupit, who runs a swing dancing school, made his astounding revelation about the 'selection' process on his company website.
"The 48-year-old says he was contacted out of the blue by the BBC and 'talked into' an audition.
"For Mr Cupit, who appeared on the opening episode of the 12th series with members of his dance company, Swing Patrol, taking part could not have been more straightforward.
"Once he bowed to the BBC’s entreaties, his only problem, he said, was having just ten days 'to think about what on earth to ask for', as he was happy with his business as it was and wasn’t seeking investment.
The practice of head hunting been greeted with dismay by those contestants who applied in the normal manner against stiff competition. Former contestant Ray Duffy, co-owner of Mask-arade, a celebrity facemask company based in Southam, South Warwickshire, branded the practice as 'deceptive'.
He told the Mail: "The perception of the viewer is that the business pitching to the Dragons has gone about it in a normal manner by approaching the show, not the show approaching them."
The BBC, responding to allegations of contestant-fixing, said: "As is made clear on the Dragons’ Den website, in order to showcase a wide cross-section of business ideas, there are many different ways that our production team source entrepreneurs and businesses to apply to take part.
"Regardless of this, every applicant, without exception, goes through the same rigorous application and audition process".
The BBC has been been accused of breaching audience trust on a number of previous occasions. In 2007 viewers of children's programme Blue Peter selected the name "Cookie" for a new cat, but producers surreptitiously changed the name to "Socks" behind viewers' backs. The same show faked the results of a phone-in competition by asking a visitor to BBC Television Centre to appear on air and pretend they'd won the prize.