Skeptic News: Broadcasting Authority upholds complaints about 'psychic' programme

From: Irish Times

COMPLAINTS ABOUT TV3’s controversial Psychic Readings Live have been upheld by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) because presenters discussed callers’ health concerns and made unacceptable claims about their psychic abilities.

The authority also found the programme, which charges callers €2.44 a minute, was in breach of its code because the “psychics” failed to make it sufficiently clear that programmes were for entertainment purposes only.

One complaint focused on a broadcast that featured a woman with breast cancer who was awaiting test results. She told the presenter she hoped her results would be good, to which the presenter responded: “Is it good or is it bad? Well, em, I would say it’s good at this moment in time.”

In another broadcast a caller was told by a “psychic” she suffered from depression.

In response, TV3 said the broadcasts were identified as entertainment and psychics could not control the questions asked. It acknowledged that one psychic commented on medical test results but said she did not mention cancer. It claimed the depression reference was not a diagnosis but referred to a tarot card.

The BAI was unconvinced. “While noting that the programme is live and that there is an element of uncertainty concerning what a caller may ask the presenter once put on air, it was evident . . . that the presenter made no effort to end the call once it became clear that the question related to a health issue,” it said.

It rejected TV3’s claims that the depression reference was an explanation of a tarot card and said the “presenter was providing an individualised assessment of the personality of the caller based on the ‘power’ of the cards”.

Under the BAI code, psychic services are acceptable “only where the service is evidently for entertainment purposes” and presenters only “make claims that future events may be predicted as a matter of opinion”. It noted that presenters said their comments were their opinion and accepted there were on-screen strap-lines saying the service was entertainment. However, it said the broadcasts as a whole “conveyed the opposite message”.

Another complainant said the show preyed on the vulnerable and was “unethical and immoral”.

TV3 said it met regulatory requirements and was identified as an entertainment service at all times.

The BAI said “the broadcast as a whole conveyed the message that the service was more than an entertainment service”. It said presenters “made consistent and repeated claims pertaining to the ‘ability’ of the psychics and fortune tellers to foretell future events”. It said the presenters’ references, taken as a whole, undermined and contradicted the strap-lines.

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