If I manufacture a milkshake and claim in the adverts that it will reduce your cholesterol by 75% within 1 month, and I can’t provide evidence to support that claim, then I will be sued for false advertising and rightly convicted.
Now consider the following:
“What’s happening at the weekend? Will my marriage difficulties work out? Will I get a pay rise? These are questions I can answer for you – we all can because we’re psychic.”
This was the first thing I heard a “psychic” say when I randomly tuned in to Psychic TV (channel 886 on Sky, website: http://www.psychic-tv.com/). How is this different from my magical cholesterol decreasing milkshake? The simple answer: it’s not.
One particular thing the two have in common, that we need to absolutely clear about, is that they are both testable claims. We could quite easily set up a double blind trial with a placebo for my cholesterol lowering milkshake, and we can quite easily place a “psychic” in a controlled environment to see if she can predict events and personality characteristics at a rate significantly greater than chance.
The other feature the two share is that they are both profit making enterprises. I would expect to make a healthy buck or two from my special cholesterol busting milkshake, and there’s certainly no doubt that the “psychics” are not providing a service from the goodness of their hearts. Text messages to the show cost £1.50 each, and calls are charged at £1.50 per minute. The question I can’t help asking is, if they’re really “psychic”, why should anyone have to phone or text at all? Viewers should be able to telepathically transmit their questions – “. . . ah, I’m sensing that Sandra in Felixstowe wants to know if she should tell her sister-in-law that her husband cheated on her. Well, Sandra . . . “ Payment wouldn’t be a problem either. The “psychics” would just know their credit card details and bill them accordingly, then they could bypass the phone companies completely and keep all the profits for themselves. Or donate them to charity.
The point I’m making is that the laws on false advertising and marketing should apply just as stringently, if not more so to the claims of TV “psychics” as it does to any other product or service. There is only one place on the Psychic TV website that casts any doubt at all, on the homepage, at the very bottom of the screen, in the smallest possible font, mixed in among other small print waffle that nobody ever reads, “services for entertainment only”. This tiny sentence resides in the shadows of great, lumbering claims like this one, describing one of the “psychics” offering their services:
Sharon has been blind from birth so uses her inner-vision to link with you. Sharon is Clairvoyant and will try to help you with any problems you have, also she will communicate with your loved ones that have passed on.
Inner-vision?! What the hell is inner-vision? Such terms need to be defined to have any meaning. And, as claims go, they don’t come much more blunt than the last phrase “she will communicate with your loved ones that have passed on”. It doesn’t add, “but the validity of mediumship has never been substantiated” or “but only for your entertainment”.
It is also worth noting that the “entertainment only” warning doesn’t appear anywhere on the TV channel that I can see. Perhaps it only flashes up for one tenth of a second every three hours, or perhaps it’s there in big letters all the time, it’s just that the font is the same colour as the background. Perhaps it’s only visible to “inner-vision”.
It is high time that the government clamped down on this sort of nonsense. Real people are placing their faith in these fraudsters (and if anyone objects to that word, I cordially invite the “psychics” to prove me wrong with some genuine evidence, because until then that is exactly what they are), and basing major, life changing decisions on their spin-of-the-wheel advice. When a happy couple, engaged to be married break up because one of them is told by a psychic that the wedding is doomed because they are not numerologically compatible, real people are not being entertained, they are being hurt. An ultimatum to the “psychics” is in order here: back up your claims like everyone else has to, or find yourselves another occupation.