Venus TV has landed in hot water for a breach concerning a medical programme it aired in April 2014.
A complaint alerted Ofcom to the broadcast in ‘Rohani Alam’ of potentially harmful life changing advice on a range of personal and medical matters including fertility problems, disabilities and epilepsy.
Venus TV said that the programme did not contain misleading statements and claims. It added that popular religious scholars on the programme reminded viewers to read particular holy book verses and pray to God in accordance with Muslim religious beliefs for things [to] be better.
The Licensee argued that the statements made in the programme were in line with Muslims beliefs that God had create[d] [a] cure for every illness apart from death and that the programme discussed viewers۪ family and psychological issues, not medical issues.
Venus TV stated that the inclusion of a regular scroll for the protection of [the] general public was clearly displayed throughout the programme advising viewers to contact their GP for any medical issues. The Licensee said that the religious scholar did not claim to be a doctor or a qualified financial advisor.
The Licensee considered that the programme was not a religious programme but a chat show, where callers call[ed] to discuss their problems and their families۪ problems. It said that religion was neither the central subject nor a significant part of the programme. In addition, Venus TV considered that the programme was a multi faith social forum and had included scholars from different religions and beliefs.
It stated that the programme had finished broadcasting in May 2014 after 12 episodes and that it would be extra careful and vigilant in future and hop[ed] th[ese] kind[s] of claims [would] not be made in future shows.
Ofcom was concerned that the Licensee did not appreciate that this programme was a religious programme as defined in Section Four of the Code. We were also concerned that the Licensee did not consider the advice included in this programme to be potentially harmful to viewers. We acknowledge that Venus TV took some, but clearly inadequate, steps to provide protection to its audience. However, for the reasons set out above, we considered the steps taken to mitigate the risk of harm to susceptible viewers were not sufficient and considered the material to be clearly in breach of Rules 2.1 and 4.6.
We note that Ofcom imposed a statutory sanction on the Licensee in 2008 and recorded a breach of Rule 2.1 in 2010 in both cases involving material which had the potential to cause harm to the health of viewers. We are therefore concerned about the Licensee۪s compliance in this area.
Ofcom is therefore requesting Venus TV to attend a meeting to explain its compliance arrangements for this type of content, and puts the Licensee on notice that should similar breaches of the Code occur, we will consider further regulatory action.