Flix Saturday, August 01, 2015 - 05:30

Last week, an article appeared in The Guardian stating that a Hindi TV channel had been fined £25,000 by media watchdog Ofcom over misleading advice that they could cure cancer and hernia.

Several media outlets reported it, but the report itself dates back to November 2014.

The show in question is Yoga for You aired on Zee Network’s Lamhe channel by presenter Pankaj Naram. Ofcom said that they had acted based on a complaint filed which objected against the fact that the show said that “serious medical conditions (including cancer) could be treated or cured by herbal remedies and ayurvedic products.”

Aside from mentioning preventive measures for cancer and hernia in his programme, Naram also mentioned the harm caused by burgers, cheese, pizza, cigarettes and alcohol, as the “main causes of cancer”.

Raising its objections with regard to the content, in its report, Ofcom says:

“Ofcom considered these claims could have led viewers to understand that specific serious medical conditions could be treated successfully by using or following the recommended treatments.”

While the media watchdog had further objections with regard to the nature of advertising on the channel for Naram’s products, it also noted, “There is no evidence that ayurvedic herbal medicines can prevent, treat or cure cancer. In the absence of such evidence, we considered that there was also an appreciable risk of harm to viewers who actively followed the alternative treatments Dr Naram promoted in this programme.”

Most of the British media reported the story from their lens, which was to do with the programme making “false claims” on their TV channels.

ZEE Network's response to the whole episode is what is interesting though. What can be inferred from it is that what misleads the Brits seems to go down well with the Indian audience.

Ofcom mentions that ayurveda cannot cure cancer and may be a preventive measure at best.

It is that point that begs the spotlight because in its reply to the allegations, ZEE seemed to look nervously over the shoulder and brush aside the issue. While it expressed regret over the telecast of the material, it also mentioned that the broadcast was never meant for British shores and that a goof-up had happened at their Mumbai office.

In its statement, ZEE mention that Naram is an ayurvedic doctor of repute, and that the program had not intended to be broadcast in the UK. “This breach [of the Code] was a serious failure by some of our Mumbai staff and we will ensure it does not happen again,” the channel said.

It mentioned that it had violated the “Code” for transmission in the UK and would be more careful henceforth.

The report adds that “However, a version of the programme intended for Zee’s Indian channel, was added to the library system for UK services due to a ‘human error’. The Licensee (ZEE) said it realised its “grave mistake” on 1 July 2014 and consequently suspended further repeats of the programme.”

The channel’s response may throw up some pertinent points.

Why is it that programmes which may alter the psyche of a cancer patient towards their ongoing treatment find an audience in India?

Why is it also that the same “Code” for screening content does not apply to us?

If “objectionable content” like a hint of cleavage or the like is seen in hazily huge pixels on some TV channels for the purpose of censorship, why not this?

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