TV3's psychics breach code again

Fri, Nov 9, 2012, 00:00

A claim from TV3 that pregnancy is not “strictly considered to be a health issue” has been dismissed by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland as it upheld four complaints against the controversial Psychic Readings Live programme which the station broadcasts.

While TV3 did admit that "the provision of psychic services is not an exact science" it robustly defended the programme in the face of a growing number of complaints which accused it of exploiting vulnerable people for commercial gain.

Under the BAI’s code of conduct it is forbidden for psychic services to discuss health matters or to predict the future as a matter of fact.

However, on one broadcast when a caller asked if she would ever conceive she was told that not only would she conceive she would have twins. The complaint said that at no point was it evident this was in the host’s opinion and when similar calls came in similar answers were given with the “psychic” saying only once that he could not discuss medical issues.

This complaint said the content was “nothing more than blatant exploitation of people in a vulnerable position.”

In response TV3 said “the provision of psychic services is not an exact science”. It said care was taken to ensure psychics did not provide advice on health matters but said “the reality is that in a live broadcasting environment, some questions which are very general, such as those in relation to childbearing, can touch on health issues as well as relating to general matters such as relationships”.

TV3 said “pregnancy is not strictly considered to be a health issue” and that it was more of “a relationship and family issue”. It did say that it had subsequently requested that psychics refrain from making predictions relating to pregnancy.

The BAI accepted that the programme is broadcast live and that there is an element of uncertainty concerning what a caller may ask but it said it “was evident to the [Compliance] Committee that the presenter discussed issues relating to pregnancy in a manner that did not have regard to the restriction on discussions concerning health matters”. It said it considered pregnancy to be a health matter..

Another complaint focussed on a woman who asked when she would have her next grandchild. She was told that a grandchild was not only coming but that “I think your daughter is pregnant right now’.

A third complaint centred on a presenter who told a woman she would be married in Asia in three years but before that she could expect her flat to burn down. She was told not to worry because her house insurance would cover it. The complaint said the presenter “cast fear into the caller’s heart” and that the broadcast “amounts to mental and financial exploitation of the vulnerable”

In response TV3 insisted the programme met all regulatory requirements and that it was clearly “identified as an entertainment service at all times”. The station also pointed out that the psychic had “clearly stated that the prediction. . . was being made in his opinion”.

However the Compliance Committee upheld the complaint and concluded that “the broadcast as a whole conveyed the message that the service was more than an entertainment service.”

It said the presenter “made consistent and repeated claims pertaining to the ‘ability’ of the psychics and fortune tellers to foretell future events”. He said he had “very high accuracy” and offered to provide “real psychic readings” from “a natural psychic”. He also talked about his “very special gift”, his “very special talent” and a comment that what he says “comes true”.

Another complaint highlighted questions from callers such as: ‘....is my life going in a certain direction?’ “Can I keep my home?”, “will [I] marry my partner, or not” and “Will I have more children?” Each time the psychic replied with a definitive ‘yes’ response “and it was not evident that the views offered were the opinion of the presenter”.

TV3 insisted the views were the “psychic’s” opinion and he repeated this at regular intervals. “However, as it is a live broadcast they may not remember to state it at all times,” the station said

The BAI once again upheld the complaint and pointed to the claims made by the psychic as to their ability as one of the reasons .

The Irish Times contacted TV3 and asked if it stood over its definition of pregnancy and in a statement the company said the programme was "an infomercial".

A spokeswoman said it was "allowed to sell three hours of infomercial airtime to any advertiser. TV3 sells the time to the advertiser who will pay most for it. This is not television programming time. TV3 has no responsibility for editorial content in infomercials so long as the content meets applicable laws and regulations. We take any complaints against an advertiser seriously and we will follow up to ensure that all advertising is lawful including infomercials."

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