Psychic TV has been fined £12,500 for failing to remind viewers that it’s all nonsense, while interactive quiz channel The Big Deal got stung with a 10 grand fine for advertising the service - something neither of them saw coming.
The broadcast breached Ofcom's latest guidance for flimflam artists: that they must regularly remind viewers they're talking bollocks, both in words and on-screen banners, and that claims of efficacy aren't permitted. Both Psychic TV and Big Deal managed to breach both those clauses.
The broadcast claimed psychics could provide "accurate and precise" readings for those who called in. Presenters provided evidence in the form of anecdotes about previous successes (which isn't allowed) and claimed to have worked for various police forces in solving crimes, specifically in connection with the murder of Milly Dowler, which is also verboten - if only because it isn't true.
Ofcom can't ban psychics from appearing on TV, and dial-in TV is a burgeoning industry right now, so the regulator erects a maze of legislation requiring broadcasters to constantly remind viewers that it’s all a bit of fun and shouldn't be taken seriously.
Ofcom is in the enviable position to make that statement - unlike the Daily Mail, which has just paid out £125,000 following claims that a performing psychic was cheating. The Mail's mistake was to label Sally Morgan a fraud, rather than just, er, not to be taken seriously, but Ofcom can explicitly require presenters to denigrate their own beliefs as nonsensical entertainment.
Ofcom regularly sanctions Participation TV services (PTV), though normally it's those late-night premium rate chat lines that attract the regulator’s ire, for being excessively graphic while trying to recruit callers.
As that business moves online it falls outside Ofcom’s remit, but the slow migration is a reminder of how ubiquitous TV remains despite the obvious advantages of internet delivery. ®