The BBC has apologised and pulled a Christmas episode of University Challenge after two contestants complained about a lack of provision for their disabilities.
The festive spin-off from the BBC Two quiz show, hosted by Amol Rajan, features teams of distinguished alumni who compete on behalf of their former universities.
A contestant, who is blind, told BBC News that audio description had been promised but was not provided. A request for subtitles for another contestant, who is neurodivergent, is understood to have been turned down.
In the episode, which was filmed in November, two Oxford and Cambridge colleges were competing against each other.
One of the affected contestants, whose identity has not been disclosed, said: “One minute before the show, we were told there was no audio description and that ‘your captain will instead have to explain everything’.”
The contestant said the visual images, which had to be described, included a pie chart and maps. “It was distressing,” they added.
The other contestant, who has challenges with audio processing, said they had requested subtitles in advance so that they would not be at a disadvantage when trying to answer questions at speed. “Unfortunately, I was told this wasn’t possible,” they said.
They agreed to participate, but said the experience was “overwhelming and overstimulating”, and that it affected their ability to function for a week afterwards.
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.”
The show’s production company, Lifted Entertainment, which is part of ITV Studios, also offered its “sincere apologies”. It 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.”
The rest of the festive series is not affected by the decision to pull the episode, BBC News reported. Fourteen teams are competing in seven first-round matches of Christmas University Challenge, which will be broadcast from 18 December.