The BBC has cancelled the festive edition of its longest running TV quiz show after contestants complained that producers had failed to support them participating with disabilities.
The Times reports that both the BBC and Lifted Entertainment which makes the show, have apologized for the “distressing” experience suffered by one of the contestants on the Christmas edition of University Challenge.
The contestant who is blind, had asked for an audio description facility, but was told minutes before recording began that this could not be provided.
“We were told that your captain will instead have to explain everything,” they told BBC News. “It was distressing. I [got] in touch to say I’d prefer not to have the manifestation of my disability broadcast on network TV in the run-up to Christmas.”
A fellow contestant, who is neurodivergent, had asked for subtitles to help them answer the questions speedily, but this request had been turned down. This individual participated in the show, but found the process “overwhelming and overstimulating.”
Both the BBC and Lifted Entertainment released statements of apology. A BBC spokesman said: “We are working closely with producers to improve cross-industry access on our programmes to ensure a consistent approach is implemented. We would like to apologise to the individuals and teams concerned, and they have been written to personally by the producers.”
In a statement, the National Federation of the Blind of the UK called for the whole series to be scrapped and re-recorded:
“Given that the two contestants were expecting to compete as equals thinking that their access requirements were being met, it must have been a traumatic experience to go through during the filming.
“It is essential that the whole series is withdrawn and started again. Who wants to win when you know that your opponents have been discriminated and treated unfairly in this way.”
University Challenge is one of the BBC’s longest-running and most successful programmes, first airing in 1962.