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Jeremy Paxman Reveals University Challenge Is Edited When Contestants Can't Answer Questions

Legendary broadcaster gives fans the scoop on quiz show.

04/10/2016 16:41

They may be heralded as the brains of Britain, but University Challenge presenter Jeremy Paxman has revealed that the show’s contestants are not always quite the masterminds they appear to viewers. 

Speaking at the Henley Literary Festival on Sunday, Paxman gave away one of the BBC’s biggest secrets - that the programme is sometimes edited to hide the fact contestants have answered a series of starter questions incorrectly. 

“I’ll let you into a secret [about how] University Challenge is recorded,” the 66-year-old quiz master told fans at the festival. 

David M. Benett via Getty Images
Jeremy Paxman has given away one of University Challenge's biggest secrets

“If we get a run of questions, it doesn’t happen very often, say one show in seven or eight or 10 or something, you might get a run of unanswered starter questions, they all get edited out.”

Paxman revealed the episodes were edited because, “as a taxpayer you do not want to think your money is being wasted”.

University Challenge sees two teams of students go head-to-head answering complex questions on a range of subjects in order to score points. 

The legendary broadcaster has presented the programme since it was revived by the BBC in 1994.

Notable former contestants include Stephen Fry, former cabinet minister Sir Malcolm Rifkind and Birdsong author Sebastian Faulks. 

Following Paxman’s comments, the BBC has defended University Challenge. 

A spokesperson for the broadcaster said: “If minor edits are made they always accurately and fairly represent each team’s performance.   

 “Viewers should not be in any doubt that University Challenge Contestants are the cream of the TV quiz crop.” 

Paxman also used the stage at the literary festival, where he was promoting his autobiography A Life in Questions, to criticise the BBC and the licence fee. 

“The licence fee is clearly an antique mechanism... and it’s not difficult to devise something in the digital age,” he told the audience. 

“It is clearly not feasible to continue indefinitely with a system of taxes on a particular item of household furniture which essentially what it is.

“We don’t say there’s a tax on washing machines or fridge freezers or something, do we? I don’t think that can last.” 

The former Newsnight continued: “The BBC is an infuriating organisation, it’s too big, it makes mistakes and then it refuses to apologise for them properly it refuses to sort things out properly. 

“But the question that has to be answered is “would the world be better off without it” and if the answer to that is no, which I think it is, then the question is how do we pay for it?” 

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