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Ofcom maps out what 'psychics' are allowed to do on TV

Chicken bones are not, in principle, problematic

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The UK regulator, Ofcom, has issued a clarification for purveyors of TV programmes based around psychic powers, basically reminding them that they are all frauds.

Most advertising is regulated by the Advertising Standards Authority, but participation television – where viewers are encouraged to call in, and pay, still falls to Ofcom. The rules remain the same, but are subject to interpretation, particularly when it comes to what it's acceptable to promise viewers for their money.

The clarification (PDF, surprisingly funny) makes it clear that Ofom doesn't acknowledge the existence of any higher power, other than the Ministry of Fun. Anyone claiming to be in touch with such a power (other than a recognised deity) must be very clear that they're doing so "for entertainment purposes only" and not just with a banner at the bottom of the screen either, it has to be stated by the presenters.

Even those who are worshiping one of the more-universally-recognised gods can't go around promising miracle cures, but those claiming psychic powers are also prohibited from predicting the future, offering personal (life-changing) advice or claiming to be in any way accurate – and they can't say they're able to talk to the dead either*.

They are, however, allowed to talk to Spirit Guides as Ofcom identifies these as "some supposed supernatural advisor of obscure, mythological or ancient provenance" and not, according to the regulator, dead as such.

This kind of linguistic trickery is necessary for the regulator to control the legal right of flimflam artists to fleece the vulnerable, and desperate, of their cash. Ofcom can't make psychic television illegal, so erects a maze of regulation making it very hard to do, and takes opportunities like this one to remind broadcasters just how complicated those rules are. ®

* No, we don't know how the spiritualist church fits in here, but until the claim is made on TV it's not an issue.

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