Should TV programmes such as ‘A Place in the Sun’ come with a governmental health warning because of Brexit?

First published in January 2019.

Upbeat music. The camera lingers on sunset and pristine beach views. A couple walk towards us. They are British. They are happy. They’ve just started a new life. And if you are British, you can, too.

This programme and its sisters occupy many hours of TV every single day in the UK. You may not have seen it but, from my privileged position as a freelance writer and translator working from home, I was able to witness it.

And I must tell you a very inconvenient truth: ‘A Place in the Sun’ and its sister programmes are carriers of dangerous propaganda. They mislead the British public, even now, so close to Brexit.

‘A Place in the Sun’ tells the British public that they have a right to live, work, set up business, retire, study and many things more in any EU country they choose. But it never, not once, mentions that these rights are the rights of citizenship we have as EU citizens. And that they will stop, STOP after Brexit.

The British TV landscape is a dangerous place.

News reporting in particularly has drastically become biased, mostly promoting the government view point. Documentaries and talk shows have been criticized for the same reason.

And while this all is of vital importance, I have discovered a very pervasive genre of British programming that looks harmless, even benign, but that actually presents a very dangerous narrative of Britain and the British in the EU – and all without ever mentioning the E-word.

There are several programs like this, on all major channels, and they run every day of the week. Sometimes they are repeated at night.

They have different names. ‘Sun, Sea and Selling Houses’, ‘Escape to the Continent’, etc. But for the purposes of this article, I will subsume them all under the name of the most successful one: ‘A Place in the Sun’.

Factually, and to anyone who knows nothing about Britain and specifically nothing about Brexit Britain, ‘A Place in the Sun’ and its sister programmes are huge advertisements for Freedom of Movement. Yes, the one thing that both Tory and Labour want to eradicate above all, and that, for many of them, seems worth any kind of economic self-savagery.

The ease with which these British citizens are able to purchase and sell properties in any EU country they like, set up businesses, work without work permits in any job they choose, retire, get health care, get free education for their children, and many other things, aided by local English speaking property agents who are mostly British themselves, is all because of their right to Freedom of Movement.

But have I heard Freedom of Movement mentioned even once on the programmes? No. Not once. Not once is it explained that this is only possible because of citizens’ right in the EU.

Anyone from a third country faces huge immigration and visa hurdles for all of these activities. The entire premise of all these many, many hours of programmes every week is EU citizenship.

But that is never mentioned.

And so, to someone who didn’t know anything about it, it would seem that it is a specifically British privilege to move ‘abroad’, ‘to the continent’ and buy a property, work, retire, study, etc. There is no mention whatsoever of the fact that this is a reciprocal right. And that many, many people from the countries ‘in the sun’ have in fact exercised those citizens’ right in other EU countries, including the UK. Those people appear in different TV programmes where they are demonised and attacked as migrants who shouldn’t get ‘preferential treatment’. The connection is not made.

Of course, all of this has to be deduced from whatever knowledge level of EU citizenship the viewer might have, since no information whatsoever is provided.

In its absence, although many of the participants looking for a place in the sun are very nice, decent people, the programmes do have a slightly superior and sometimes exploitative undertone.

The British, with their superior financial means, even those who are not very rich ‘at home’, have their pick of the nicest accommodation but nevertheless often respond to what is on offer with a haughty and superior ‘this is not to our standard’. They do often say that they would like to enjoy ‘local culture’ but are rarely willing to actually live in the kind of housing that most of the locals live in. It is just not British enough.

And of course, being British, there is one big difference between them and Southern Europeans who make their home in the UK: the British only speak English. And they expect others to accommodate them in that, too. For many of them, this is such an unconscious bias that it is treated as a matter of course by them, the real estate agents, and the programmes themselves. It is hard to imagine the reverse, for example Spanish or Portuguese people coming to the UK and not speaking English.

This contributes to the distinctly colonial feel of the programmes. The British are the owners of the language and often make ‘kindly’ jokes about the accents of non-British EU citizens. The British, it seems, can buy the whole place up if they choose to and the locals are, well, locals. I don’t think I’ve ever heard it even mentioned that any local had relatives or friends living in the UK.

This is all in striking opposition to the way EU citizens in the UK are portrayed on British TV — if they are portrayed at all. I think it is scandalous that many of the major ‘soaps’ still have no, or only very marginal EU citizen characters. We have been eradicated from the collective British consciousness. We don’t exist on popular TV. TV shows Britain as the country the programme makers wish it to be, not as it really is.

To be fair, ‘A Place in the Sun’ and its sisters occasionally do show other Northern Europeans who have also mysteriously ‘settled’ in the EU sun countries. But how they got there and how this is all connected is, again, unexplained. And of course those other Northern Europeans also speak English.

Programmes like these have been running for many years. They look harmless and benign on the surface, but are they?

"A place in the sun" always looking for future British buyers.

So, since it is a programme celebrating Freedom of Movement (without mentioning it), what does the ‘Place in the Sun’ have to say about Brexit?

You guessed it: nothing.

Less than 3 months away from the end of Freedom of Movement, the main (and perhaps only) goal and achievement left for both the Conservatives and the Labour Party, ‘A Place in the Sun’ merrily goes on as if there was no cataclysmic sea change on the horizon.

Every day on my TV, British people are still buying property in the sun, working there in all sorts of jobs, part-time, full-time, freelance, in their own businesses, retiring with full health benefits, etc. And since these programmes are clearly meant to entice others to do the same, there is an unspoken but very strong message that this will of course go on into the foreseeable future.

But for the British, it will not.

When Britain leaves the EU, very very soon, British citizens will no longer have the right to live, work, retire, study and many other things in ANY other EU country. The fate of those who are already living in EU countries has been in limbo since Article 50 was triggered and, shamefully, they have been abandoned by their own government, intent on only one thing: to end Freedom of Movement. And although many EU countries will treat UK citizens in the EU much much more humanely and with more dignity than the UK is treating the EU citizens in the UK, where they are being subjected to a brutal application process run by a Home Office suffused with Hostile Environment practices, incentivized to reject as many as possible, this will apply to anyone who wants to follow in their footsteps.

After 29 March 2019, there will be no place in the EU sun for British citizens any more.

Even holiday makers will need to apply for a visa to enter the EU for a limited time period. A visa application that can, of course, be rejected.

But living, working, etc. in the EU will be impossible for anyone except the very rich.

I am an EU citizen. Of course I know that. I am taught a lesson about my unwelcome status here in the UK in many different ways every single day.

But do the many British day time viewers know it too? Is it responsible programming to keep showing them a call to actions that will very soon be impossible for them? Because their rights are taken away by their own government...

‘A Place in the Sun’, running right now as I’m typing this, with beautiful landscapes, flower, apartments  refurbished to ‘almost’ British standards, is a programme that seeps into hearts and minds.

It shows the world and the position of the British in the world, and particularly in the EU (although the word EU is also never mentioned!) in a very emotional, persuasive and picturesque way.

But that world will end. Abruptly and very soon. And ‘forever’ as the British PM so proudly says in every single one of her statements. Those occasional Northern Europeans with their funny accents will still be able to get their ‘Place in the Sun’. After Brexit, the British will be confined to the UK.

So, therefore, should not ‘A Place in the Sun’ come with a governmental health warning?

After all, I have sometimes seen such a health warning at the end of the programme, tiny but visible. Sometimes, there is a brief text at the end that states ‘real estate prices as of the year [2015]. I suppose the purpose of this is not to mislead the British public.

During the time of the Soviet Empire, many TV stations in Eastern European countries showed holiday programmes. The locations of these holidays were of course all in the Eastern bloc, and occasionally in communist Cuba. None of these programmes ever mentioned why these holidays could not take place in Italy, or Spain, or Greece. Everybody knew why. The population of Eastern Europe had no access to those countries. A make-believe reality was created that mimicked the political restrictions.

Even a luxury Place in the Sun like ‘Escape to the Chateau’ falls under this harmless/sinister programme category although its very wealthy protagonists might just conceivably be able to afford third country visa, work permit and business exemptions reserved for the very rich. Their many guests, however, and ‘local British’ helpers would probably not.

So, why is there no Brexit Warning?

Why is there not a big banner, all throughout the program that says ‘after Brexit this will no longer be possible for the British (but it will be for all other EU citizens)?

I am not joking. I do think ‘A Place in the Sun’ presents a danger to the British public. Next time you have a moment, or if there is a late night repeat, just watch a little bit of one of these programmes and tell me they are not dangerous.🔷

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[This is an original piece, first published by the author in on 14 January 2019. | The author writes in a personal capacity.]

(Cover: Gif from 'A place in the sun'.)