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Akaal Channel rapped by Ofcom for broadcasting “harmful health advice”

Akaal Channel has landed in hot water with Ofcom over content it broadcast in February 2020, which was deemed “harmful” to viewers.

‘Live Akaal Advice Bureau’ is a live programme where a presenter discusses health issues with a guest (Dr W). They also take calls from viewers and answer their health and lifestyle questions.

Following a complaint about another edition of the programme, Ofcom requested a recording of the most recent broadcast of the programme, which was broadcast on 23rd February 2020. The programme was broadcast in Punjabi. It is worth adding that a “health disclaimer” was displayed along the bottom of the screen during the show.

Akaal Channel said that its policy was that all “health-related” programmes “must carry a disclaimer” and that a disclaimer had been used in this case. It also said that the audience of the channel was “much more open and accepting of the approach taken and the language i.e. “cure”, used in the programme” than a general UK audience might be.

It added that it had a review process in place for programmes including this one which were broadcast live. It said: “As part of this review process, feedback was provided and a reminder was issued to [Dr W] that editorial responsibility rests with Akaal Channel, as the broadcast licensee. It was agreed that [Dr W] would leave Akaal Channel at the end of March 2020. Akaal Channel no longer has a working relationship with [Dr W]”.

Ofcom took into account the steps Akaal Channel had taken following the broadcast which ultimately resulted in Dr W leaving the channel. While Ofcom understood the additional difficulties in ensuring compliance of live programming as opposed to programmes which are pre-recorded, Ofcom considered that in this case Akaal Channel had failed to sufficiently protect viewers from potential harm during the programme.

Ofcom’s decision is therefore that generally accepted standards had not been applied to Akaal Channel’s content so as to provide adequate protection from harmful material, in breach of Rule 2.1 of the Code.