In a move that might brighten the day of those left disappointed and angry by Sally Morgan’s success in court yesterday, OFCOM has reported that it imposed a financial penalty of £12,5000 on Majestic TV Limited who are responsible for ‘Psychic Today’ which is broadcast on Sky Channel 886. The show is a typical Psychic Reading show that encourages viewers to phone the Premium Rate Telephone service (or to send a text message in) to obtain psychic readings either live with one of the presenters on the screen, or in private with an off air psychic.
OFCOM found that three pieces of advertising content broadcast on Psychic Today between May and June 2012 breached UK Code of Broadcast Advertising (BCAP) rules 15.5.3 and 15.5.2
Rule 15.5.2 Advertisements for personalised and live services that rely on belief in astrology, horoscopes, tarot and derivative practices are acceptable only on channels that are licensed for the purpose of the promotion of such services and are appropriately labelled: both the advertisement and the product or service itself must state the product or service is for entertainment purposes only.
Rule 15.5.3 Advertising permitted under Rule 15.5 may not:
• Make claims for efficacy or accuracy;
• Predict negative experiences or specific events;
• Offer life-changing advice directed at individuals – including advice related to health (including pregnancy) or financial situation;
• Appeal particularly to children;
• Encourage excessive use.
One broadcast on Psychic Today included an on-screen graphic which stated that a particular psychic could give “accurate and precise” readings, and during another breach a psychic claimed, rather disturbingly, to have had direct involvement with various police investigations, including the disappearance of Milly Dowler.
Worth noting is the that these breaches occurred following the 2011 publishing of a guidance for broadcasters in respect of psychic television services predicated on PRS . The Guidance (which can be read here) reinforced the fact that Psychic shows must not contain explicit and implicit claims of efficacy or accuracy of the psychic readers and that broadcasters should not solely rely on an on-screen message stating the psychic material is ‘for entertainment purposes only’.
A financial penalty of £10,000 was also imposed on Square 1 Management Limited who are responsible for Big Deal which is broadcast on Freeview on Channel 32 for broadcasting the same ‘Psychic Today’ shows containing the above breaches.
Psychic television shows are a big concern as it can be very tempting for those sat at home who have something on their mind to phone in for a reading, believing the answer or solution they seek lays with those psychics. The only thing guaranteed though, is a massive phone bill at the end of the month. Such channels make for disturbing viewing when you know there are emotionally vulnerable people out there being drawn in like a moth to a flame.
Thank goodness, then, for OFCOM.