Astrology and Television

26 November 2003 - ITC Announces Programme Code Revision

Following a public consultation earlier this year, the ITC has confirmed a revision to the Programme Code, which applies to all ITC licensees.

The consultation was on Section 1.10 of the Code, addressing the issue of "Psychic Practices". The ITC received over 200 responses from licensees, organisations and individuals. After consideration of these responses, including the need to limit child viewing of psychic practices, the Code wording has been revised as follows:

1.10 The Occult and 'Psychic' Practices

1.10(i) Exorcisms and the Occult

Actual demonstrations of exorcisms and occult practices, such as those involving the purported invocation of unknown spirits of the dead or negative forces, are not acceptable in non-fictional programming except in the context of a legitimate investigation. They should not, in any case, be shown before the watershed.

1.10(ii) Other Paranormal and related Issues

NB These paragraphs refer only to issues dealt with outside a religious or doctrinal context. Section 7 deals with religious programming and issues.

Demonstrations of clairvoyance, clairaudience, and similar practices are acceptable only when they are clearly and explicitly presented as entertainment, or when they are the subject of legitimate investigation. Programmes should not be included at times when significant numbers of children are expected to be watching: for example, before the watershed on public service channels. When presented for entertainment purposes, measures should include announcements before and at the end of programmes to indicate their nature as entertainment, and appropriate acknowledgement of the existence of differing opinions as to the true nature of clairaudience and clairvoyance. Programmes should not include specific advice to particular contributors or viewers about health or medical matters, the law or personal finance or include specific advice which might significantly influence behaviour in relation to personal relationships. They should not include advice which might be damaging or unduly distressing to those concerned or which might unduly disconcert the likely audience.

Demonstrations of predictive practices, whether 'psychic' or otherwise (eg horoscopes, palmistry), are acceptable only when they are presented as entertainment or are the subject of legitimate investigation. They should not include specific advice to particular contributors or viewers about health or medical matters or about personal finance. They should not be included at times when large numbers of children are expected to be watching.

Fiction programmes containing 'psychic' or occult phenomena should not normally be scheduled before the watershed, although a fantasy context, for example, may justify such a scheduling."

This amended wording comes into force from 8 December 2003.

Notes to Editors

1. The consultation on the revised wording was announced on 18 July (see ITC news release 46/03. On 25 September, the ITC made public the consultation responses (see news release 54/03)

2. In May this year, the ITC ruled that two programmes on the satellite channel, Living TV (Crossing Over and 6ixth Sense) were in breach of the Programme Code, but would not have been had they been clearly presented as entertainment (see ITC news release 35/03). It was agreed that the Code should be clarified for the benefit of all licensees.

3. The ITC Programme Code will continue to be used when Ofcom takes over responsibility for regulating commercial television on 29 December 2003. Ofcom plans to consult on a new Programme Code early in 2004.

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