Astrology and Television
The Independent Television Commission has released a discussion document looking at the portrayal of paranormal subjects on TV.Their conclusions could have a profound impact on how astrology is treated by television producers in Britain.
Astrologers now have an important opportunity to have their say and make sure that astrology can be treated as an intelligent subject on TV in the future.
Update: October 2004
The Association has now submitted its comments to Ofcom. Click here to read them
Update: July 2004
Now is the time to read the proposals and act appropriately! Deadline 5th October 2004!
If you visit www.ofcom.org.uk/consultations/current/Broadcasting_code/?a=87101 you will find Ofcom's introduction and also several PDF links that enable you to print out the whole code, comments and explanation booklet.
This is a vital development, as Ofcom is embarking on a thorough re-designing and rewriting of the code and, when it is complete it will apply to nearly all broadcasting. The deadline closes on 5th October 2004. So it is important to act now.
Read Section 5 especially carefully.
At this early stage of our studying of this 146 page consultation document for a proposed code of 35 pages, we are already finding considerable cause for concern.
While under section 5 "Harm and Offence" section 2.6, there is no longer a specific mention of astrology, the phrase "Demonstrations of exorcism, the occult, the paranormal, divination and related subjects" is likely to be used to include it. The phrase " legitimate investigation." is replaced by "due objectivity". "Life changing advice" is specially excluded and this is defined as meaning "advice about health, finances, employment, relationships etc." ("etc." in a legal document!!)
[Links to the previous wording are at the bottom of this page. See also below for an outline of developments since last year July 2003]
Our immediate reaction is that, while this is an improvement in that astrology is no longer specifically picked out for mention and "due objectively" is far more reasonable than "legitimate investigation", at the same time this section is essentially flawed for the following reasons:
1) The code associates a wide range of very different so-called "paranormal" activities together, although they are entirely different in their nature and outcome(s) of their use. Astrology is an instrument like a bread knife, or a motor car. While in the hands of a malevolent person, knives and cars can do great harm, it is the malevolence, not the knife or car that needs to be contained. Similarly, it is the intention to harm, abuse, or exploit others that the code should be restricting, not the instrument that causes the harm. Taken to its logical conclusion nothing than can harm in the wrong hands should be shown on television!!!
2) By grouping what it sees to be a particular sub-group's activities together, Ofcom is making a prejudiced cultural judgement and freezing the "cut and thrust" of social development - the very opposite of what the media should be doing.
3) To suggest that astrology, as a related subject, could solely by its use give the same kind of harm and offence as "Adult material", "violent and anti-social behaviour, "scenes of humiliation" is an insult to all of us.
4) Students of last year's ITC "Beyond Entertainment" research may wish to look at the figures for viewers, who felt uncomfortable with astrology compared to the more extreme activities, such as voodoo. So why are we still lumped together?
Read Section 4 especially carefully
This focuses on "Protecting the Under Eighteens". Particularly refer to 1.21 and the scheduling considerations it mentions. Again, the existence of pervasive and especially graphic activities is being used to "tar with the same brush" all what Ofcom considers to be the "occult".
If our children do not learn about astrology at school, or in the media how will they ever learn?
Read Section 7 especially carefully
Clearly, anyone who sees astrology as a religion, or as a crucial part of their religion can insist astrology is shown within these guidelines and certainly ensure it is not condemned in the programme.
Read the whole document and act as seems necessary to you
This is all we have had time to absorb. We hope it will get you started. The Association encourages you to access the consultation document, study it carefully and, either feedback any comments you wish to email@example.com if wish the Association to take account of them in its submission, OR submit your own comments direct to BroadcastingCode@ofcom.org.uk
Update: January 2004
The ITC has ceased to exist from 18 December 2003 and its duties have been assumed by Ofcom, the Office of Communications.
Ofcom is the new communications sector regulator and will have wide-ranging responsibilities when it assumes its powers on 29 December 2003. Ofcom inherits the duties of the five existing regulators it replaces: the Broadcasting Standards Commission (BSC), the Independent Television Commission (ITC), Oftel, the Radio Authority and the Radio communications Agency.
Update: November 2003
On 20th November the ITC made a decision to change their code
with regard to paranormal programming. The paragraph relating
to "Horoscopes" was especially affected.
They sent details of the change to the Association, explaining that our representations had had an influence and that there would be further consultations organised by the new OfCom body in the new year.
We replied as follows:
"Paranormal Programming Consultation
Thank you for your letter 26th November and for enclosing a copy of the Press Release for the new coding.
My first personal response is one of disappointment. Whilst the new wording takes advantage of our submission to tighten up the wording of the penultimate paragraph, it ignores our submission’s main thrust - that there is no reason in fairness, or the findings of your "Beyond Belief" audience research survey, that justifies picking out astrology ("horoscopes") for special restriction at any time of the day. So, the new wording falls well short of really addressing the issues we raised.
I appreciate that this is an interim decision and that discussions regarding a new OfCom Code are planned for the new year. I am consulting colleagues and associated organisations regarding alternatives to the new wording and look forward to hearing from you regarding the next stage of the consultation process."
Please consider its implications carefully. If you have comments you would like the Association to take account of contact firstname.lastname@example.org. If you wish, you can make representations direct to Ofcom at www.ofcom.org.uk.