University Challenge Christmas episode axed after disabled contestants complain

University Challenge Christmas episode pulled after ableism complaints (Ric Lowe/Lifted Entertainment/ITV Studios)
University Challenge Christmas episode pulled after ableism complaints (Ric Lowe/Lifted Entertainment/ITV Studios)

The BBC has pulled a Christmas University Challenge episode from its festive schedule after two contestants complained about a lack of provision for their disabilities.

The episode will not be broadcast following grievances from one contestant who was blind and the other neurodivergent, over a lack of audio description and subtitles, the BBC has reported.

The BBC said it has apologised to the contestants, while the show’s production company – Lifted Entertainment – also offered its “sincere apologies”.

University Challenge
University Challenge host Amol Rajan (Ric Lowe/Lifted Entertainment/ITV Studios)

The festive spin-off from the BBC Two quiz show features teams of distinguished alumni who compete on behalf of their former universities.

It is understood the production team explained that subtitles were not possible but that audio description would be provided for the contestants – which it was not, the BBC has reported.

One of the affected contestants is said to have been told a minute before the show began filming that there would be no audio description and their captain would have to relay all information.

While the second claimed a request for subtitles in advance was turned down.

On Friday, the decision was made to pull the episode, hosted by Amol Rajan – who took over from former long-time host Jeremy Paxman this year.

Jeremy Paxman
University Challenge’s Jeremy Paxman (BBC/ITV Studios/Rachel Joseph) (Rachel Joseph/BBC / ITV Studios / Rachel Joseph)

A BBC spokesperson said: “We can confirm that an episode in the upcoming series of Alumni University Challenge will not be broadcast because two of the contestants felt their access requirements were not sufficiently met by the production.

“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.”

A spokesperson for Lifted Entertainment, which is part of ITV Studios, said: “During the pre-filming briefing for this episode, two contestants requested that certain adjustments be made in order for them to be able to fully participate.

“However, following the recording, we were made aware that the adjustments made fell short of their requirements. We have spoken to the individuals involved and offered our sincere apologies.

“Having listened very carefully to their descriptions of their experiences, we agreed with the BBC that the fairest course of action was not to screen this particular edition.”