Methodist concern over 'potentially damaging' paranormal TV

The Methodist Church has voiced concern that exposure to certainparanormal practices on television can be "potentially damaging tomany people".

The concerns were expressed this week in a submission by theChurch in response to a consultation by the Independent TelevisionCommission (ITC). The ITC has been seeking the views of churchesand other organisations as part of proposals to review itsprogramme code on paranormal programming.

The Methodist submission "broadly welcomes" the ITC's proposedchanges, but warns that "certain paranormal practices are neverpresented as entertainment. Exorcism and the use of ouija boardsclearly fall into this category".

The submission goes on to that that the revised code should"require that a programme should not attempt to include both'legitimate investigation' and 'entertainment' in the sameprogramme, but should make clear to the viewer into which categorythe programme falls".

The Methodist Secretary for Parliamentary and Political Affairs,Ms Rachel Lampard, welcomed the fact that the ITC was taking thegrowth of paranormal programming seriously. She said: "Methodistswould be concerned about an editorial approach to paranormalprogramming that treats all phenomena, beliefs and practices asbeing of equal importance and significance."

A strong code of practice was vital across all broadcasters -including newer cable and satellite channels - to ensure thataudiences are given the tools with which to make informedjudgements about the impact of certain practices.

The Methodist submission calls on the code to ensure programmemakers exercise great care "if they make decisions to broadcastfrightening and traumatic footage, for example of an exorcism. Inthe interests of harm and offence, the presumption should beagainst showing such footage".

In programmes with a studio audience, there must be a "clearduty of care towards audiences involved in psychic'experiments'.

Children must be protected by a properly-enforced watershedacross all channels and not just on terrestrial channels.

The submission expresses concern about the code's distinctionbetween "occult" and "psychic" practices: "It is important not tooversimplify this distinction with the result that the broadcastingof psychic phenomenon becomes wholly acceptable."

Personal advice that is given during programmes should not tendtowards the psychic nor be linked with the promotion of particularproducts.

Follow-up material sent out to viewer that request such materialshould be responsible in tone and content - and no further contactwith the viewer should be made.