The Sikh Channel has been rapped by Ofcom over a live health show it broadcast presented by a homeopathic practitioner.
The show aired in June last year, with one viewer complaining that it was promoting the presenter’s homeopathic clinic. The programme was presented by a homeopathic practitioner who invited viewers to call him with “any question regarding any physical, mental or emotional issues”. Throughout most of the broadcast, a banner (in English) was shown near the bottom of the screen, which said: “Live: Herbal Medicine – To take part in the show please call: [studio telephone number] Contact: [telephone numbers of the presenter’s homeopathic clinic]”.
During the programme, the practitioner spoke about various health issues. He said, “Depression and anxiety are common and happen due to many diseases, like diabetes, thyroid, or any other existing disease, cancer and arthritis. When you are fed up and tense, it causes anxiety and depression, as well as phobias and fears, panic attacks, over thinking, negativity, and fear from closed doors as well, which forces patients to keep the doors open.”
The Sikh Channel said that after Ofcom made it aware of the complaint it withdrew any further programmes which featured the presenter. It also said that it had “no plans to make any further such broadcast with [the presenter] or any programming of its kind”.
The Licensee said that the presenter “only appeared in [the programme] subject to him adhering to Ofcom standards” and that he was expected to adhere to the Code. The Licensee acknowledged that this had not happened and added “that it should not have taken a complaint from Ofcom for [it] to react” and that it “should have been more vigilant”.
The Licensee acknowledged that “a key failure” in this case was that it did not advise its audience to seek the opinion of a GP about “any medicine not prescribed by a GP”. It added that the channel “always recommends” that viewers should consult their GP before taking any medication. It also said that the presenter “should have been challenged throughout his commentary on the primacy as he put it of homeopathy” and that “there should have been a warning to viewers that his views were his own, not endorsed by the channel”.
The Sikh Channel added that it recognised the presenter’s promotion of his own services was “a breach of [Rule] 9.4”.
Ofcom found the channel in breaches of Rules 2.1, 9.4 and 9.5. Ofcom expressed its concern with the presenter claiming to be able to treat a number of serious illnesses and conditions, including cancer, schizophrenia, heart conditions and Parkinson’s disease. He directly addressed viewers who were unwell, and therefore potentially vulnerable, and encouraged them to make appointments to see him. Furthermore, it said it was concerned that the programme appeared to directly encourage viewers to follow the presenter’s advice without first consulting their own GP or seeking appropriate independent medical advice. While we took into account the Licensee’s representations, that the audience of this particular programme would have likely understood the “necessity of checking [with a GP] anything to be ingested as medicine”, this assumption was not, in Ofcom’s view, sufficient to protect viewers from harm.
As well as health concerns, Ofcom found the channel in breach of numerous promotional references made to the presenter’s profession and his business, for which contact details were provided, both by the presenter verbally and also in text which appeared at the bottom of the screen. Ofcom’s view is therefore that the references to the presenter’s services were unduly prominent.