BBC star Jeremy Paxman tells TV bosses to stop 'insulting' viewers

Veteran broadcaster says University Challenge 'pays the audience the courtesy of assuming that we're quite clever enough to take part'
  • @James_Legge

BBC presenter Jeremy Paxman has criticised TV bosses dumbing down shows and "assuming we're all idiots."

He also boasted that University Challenge - which he presents - stands out among popular quiz shows for refusing to compromise on the toughness of its questions.

The Corporation's formidable inquisitor told the Radio Times: “The main reason I love University Challenge is that it gives the lie to the media stereotype about young people - that they all know nothing, and couldn't care less. It's complete rubbish.

“Every year we see more and more teams of young people who know amazing things, and you're just left wondering in pleasurable disbelief, 'How on earth did they get that?'"

Paxman was himself criticised by a report from the BBC Trust, which said guests facing him on Newsnight - or his Today programme counterpart John Humphrys - were being subjected to an unfair beating from a "prizefighter".

The report's author, former ITV CEO Stuart Prebble, wrote: "Sometimes I feel that tuning in to either can be like witnessing what seems to be a big and healthy looking bloke getting into the ring with the fairground prize-fighter."

Paxman, 63, told the magazine: “Television bosses should stop insulting the public's intelligence by assuming we're all idiots.

“University Challenge pays the audience the courtesy of assuming that we're quite clever enough to take part. It operates on the healthy assumption that learning and being able to work things out are good things.”

“We haven't compromised. It's quite hard and it will stay quite hard. In an age when you can win shedloads of money or fleeting glory by knowing the Chancellor of the Exchequer's first name (even though that one did seem to stump President Obama), our producers have made the questions more difficult than they have ever been,” he said.

Paxman refused to divulge how he fared against the students on his BBC2 show, saying: “That one I'm not going to answer.”

He added that his favourite round on the show was one in which students were asked to identify laundry instruction symbols on clothes labels - and got them all wrong.