The former Newsnight presenter (St Catharine’s College, Cambridge) awarded points to the team from St Peter’s College, Oxford, even though it was not quite the answer he had been looking for.
Paxman: “What links Winston Smith’s residence in 1984, May 8th 1945, and Nelson’s flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar?”
St Peter’s: “The letter ‘V’”
Paxman: “Yeah, we were looking for the word but you’re quite right V does link them all, V for victory, well done.”
A viewer contacted the BBC after the programme in August last year to claim Paxman, about to head up Channel 4’s general election coverage, had shown bias in favour of the Oxford team and pushed the answer through to give them the points.
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The BBC’s audience services department was having none of it, saying: “We should stress that Jeremy didn’t say he was looking for the whole word until after the answer was given, so the answer was acceptable. We don’t agree that this was a display of bias as you suggest.”
The complainant then went to the BBC Trust, but to no avail. It said on Thursday the complaint did not qualify for further consideration and there was “no likelihood there had been a breach of the editorial guidelines on impartiality”.
St Peter’s ended up beating the University of Sussex 205 points to 150 and are still in the competition, having taken out former BBC executive Roger Mosey’s Selwyn College, Cambridge (235-100) and Oxford Brookes University (240-80).