In a move no one saw coming, A British TV channel set up to offer dial-up psychic services has been fined for not telling viewers it's all "for entertainment purposes only."
Psychic Today, a 24-hour psychic network, was fined the equivalent of $19,079 U.S. for claiming on-air that its psychics could provide "accurate and precise" readings for callers, for offering anecdotal stories of successful predictions, and for making claims that presenters had helped solve crimes for the police, according to the Register.
Another TV channel, an interactive quiz channel called The Big Deal, was fined the equivalent of $15,262 for advertising psychic services.
The fines were laid down by Ofcom, an independent regulator of the British communications industry that has strict rules about how psychics can label their skills.
In one case, a psychic told viewers she was involved in the police investigation regarding the death of teenager named Milly Dowler, while another claimed she once accurately predicted that her friend would become friends with Michael Jackson.
Majestic TV, which holds the license for Psychic Today, told Ofcom that while the claims made in both cases were "factually correct," the reference to Dowler was "unfortunate," SkyNews reported.
According to a document the organization released in December 2011, anyone claiming to be in touch with a spirit guide or a dead person must qualify their powers by saying it's "for entertainment purposes," a phrase that must also be stated by the presenters and scrolled on screen.
Psychics are also prevented from predicting the future, offering life-changing advice, talking to the dead or even claiming to be accurate, the Register reported.
Ofcom's ruling gets a slightly tilted thumbs-up from D.J. Grothe, president of the James Randi Educational Foundation, an organization that according to its mission statement, "aims to expose paranormal and pseudoscientific frauds in the media, and hold media organizations accountable for promoting dangerous nonsense."
"While I am happy that Psychic Today was fined for not publicly admitting the claims were 'just for entertainment,' I'm dumbfounded that such so called 'entertainment' is even part of the channel's regular programming," he told The Huffington Post by email. "The sad fact is that even with such disclaimers, the gullible are separated from their money because they actually believe in this harmful nonsense. This TV channel is making big money taking advantage of its viewers who think these psychics are real, with or without a disclaimer."
The rulings and fines come nearly a week after British psychic Sally Morgan won a $193,000 court verdict from the Daily Mail, which claimed she used an earpiece to get information about audience members during public appearances.
Tom Chivers, an editorial writer for the Telegraph, pointed out that the judgment centered around whether she used an earpiece, not whether she really talks to the dead as she claims.