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TV psychics criticised for health 'readings'

BAI has written to TV3, asking them how they intend to address complaints against its Psychics Readings Live presentation.

Still from a Psychic Readings Live show on TV3.
Still from a Psychic Readings Live show on TV3.
Image: TV3 via Youtube.com

TV ‘PSYCHICS’ SHOULD not be giving out advice on health matters. That’s the conclusion one can draw from the latest round of decisions by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland on complaints made by the public against certain TV and radio shows.

Psychic Readings Live, which shows on TV3, had three complaints upheld against it. One complainant submitted two complaints, both of which concerned the on-air ‘psychic’ giving readings on health matters.

One of the programmes cited was broadcast on 26 June last when a caller asked about the outcome of hospital test results. The lady said later that she had breast cancer and hoped the results would be good. The psychic presenter did not make it clear to the caller that she could not discuss health matters and states, “Is it good or is it bad? Well, em, I would say it’s good at this moment in time…” and later chose a tarot card for the caller, saying it was one of celebration.

The second programme cited in this complaint about discussion of health matters concerned a caller on 5 July being told that she suffered from depression.

TV3 had rebutted the complaints saying that the psychics could not control the questions being asked and that callers were made aware of the “nature of the service” through an information strap and reference to a website which held full terms and conditions of the broadcast.

The BAI rejected this defence and upheld the complaint:

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 to the Committee from its review of the broadcast on the 26th June that the presenter made no effort to end the call once it became clear that the question related to a health issue. In the case of the programme of 5th July, the presenter alone raised the issue of depression, a health condition to which commercial communications of this nature cannot make reference.

Another complaint – to which TV3 did not respond directly – referred to a claim that  the show “preys on the vulnerable in society by telling them to call for answers on a premium-rate number at €2.50 per minute”. Later, TV3 told the BAI that the programme meets all regulatory requirements and that particularly distressed or vulnerable callers are provided with the helpline numbers of organisations “that may be in a position to assist them after the on-air call”.

The BAI however, upheld the complaint, saying that the programme especially flouts a section of the General Communications Code which says that a commercial broadcast for fortune teller services must be clearly communicated as for entertainment purposes only. It also felt that the programme did not uphold the section of the code which says such broadcasts must have a sense of responsibility “both to the individual and to society”.

You can read the full judgments of the BAI here.

The BAI told TheJournal.ie that TV3, as with any broadcaster which has a complaint upheld against them, must broadcast the decision of the BAI within 21 days. This is normally done before the show in question – and has been done already by TV3, the BAI confirmed.

The BAI also told TheJournal.ie today that it has written to TV3 asking them to outline how they intended to address the issues raised in the complaints.

If there are persistent breaches of the code, action could be taken and a further inquiry implemented. There are provisions for financial penalties, said the BAI, but this would only happen in the case of persistent breaches and if those alleged breaches were reported formally by members of the public to the BAI.

Read: TV3 distances itself from Psychic Wayne TV broadcast

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