BBC asks quiz entrant for help with questions

A contestant on the television quiz Mastermind was surprised to be called by a BBC researcher to ask him for help to set his own questions.

Gareth Kingston chose football club Northampton Town as his specialist subject, after completing the first round of the quiz show.

Mr Kingston, from Bedford, was then called by Andy Page, a former civil servant from Merseyside who now helps set questions for Mastermind after winning the contest in 2003, to ask if he had a rare book on the club.

A mutual acquaintance insisted: "As soon as Gareth realised Andy was setting questions for Mastermind, he told him that he was the contestant and it didn't go any further. Gareth didn't ask him about the questions and Andy didn't tell him. Both of them contacted the BBC to tell them what had happened. It was obviously a bit awkward."

A BBC spokesman said: "The question setter and contestant were complete strangers and it was a coincidence that they came into contact.

"There was no further communication between them and it did not affect the outcome of the show."

The Radio 5 Live presenter Victoria Derbyshire claimed before a scheduled appearance on the quiz in December that producers offered her a "crib sheet" on her specialist subject because of time pressures.

The BBC spokesman added yesterday: "We take question-setting on Mastermind extremely seriously and have rigorous procedures in place to ensure they are always both fair and challenging." The programme will be shown this month on BBC2.