Public Petition TV3 and BAI over Psychic Live Show

Last month TV3 started broadcasting an interactive service called Psychics Live. Seven days a week for 2 hours each night. The show is similar in style to the ill fated Play TV quiz programme that also aired at a similar time 2 years ago. The infomercial provides Live Psychic readings to TV3's audience and similarly to Play TV the show asks viewers to call a premium rate phone number to gain access to the services they provide.

TV3 claimed that audience levels for Play TV had dropped and this was the reason for axing Play TV, not after numerous complaints by the public to the Broadcasting Complaints Commission (BCC). At the time viewers went directly to the BCC. The new broadcasting regulator - The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) - changed their complaints policy and the audience are now asked to complain first to the broadcaster. In this case to TV3.

The BAI have received 3 complaints about Psychics Live. Under the new rules the BAI cannot accept those complaints until the audience complain to TV3 and receive an answer from TV3. TV3 must reply to a complaint within 21 days. Once TV3 provide an answer to the complaint the audience can then send the complaint on to the BAI. BAI Complaints Process Explained

In the case of Play TV the BCC and the BCI upheld nearly 35 complaints between September 2009 and March 2010. TV3 decided to cancel the show, however they made decision on audience levels and the waning popularity of the show. In an interview with Hot Press in October of 2009 David McRedmond (TV3's CEO) said "Look, we’ve been through the toughest recession, with revenues plummeting to minus 20% or 25%. We’ve had two rounds of redundancies and all taken pay cuts, and we’re doing our best to survive. And then we do something like Play TV and there’s been all sorts of complaints. It gets 12,000 viewers some nights. If somebody thinks, as you say, that it’s low-rent, they don’t have to watch it. It’s post-midnight and it’s making money.”

TV3's only response to Psychics Live has been to say that the programme airs during an "infomercial window/space" during TV3's schedule, that the "infomercial is produced by an independent 3rd party, ESO.TV" and that the services that it promotes are licensed by ComReg. That it is "not a TV3 programme or TV3 content" and that it "meets all premium phone-line and broadcasting regulations".

But can TV3 take this line? The infomercial space appears because TV3 choose that window and sold it to ESO.TV. TV3 made the decision to allow ESO.TV to broadcast on TV3 at a time that suited both TV3 and ESO.TV. Or is this just a case of TV3 washing their hands of a bad decision that they made before audiences can complain.

On Friday the 5th of March 2010 TV3 announced that it would not "renew" the Play TV service. This suggests that TV3 were responsible for the Play TV service as it aired on TV3. Again they eluded to the fact that the series had helped avoid job cuts during a recessionary period, however TV3 removed the show due to declining audience levels, this suggests that TV3 are informed of audience levels on a so called commercial contract that has nothing to do with TV3. The press release then suggests that TV3 will return to interactive services as viewers demand (again a decision to be made by TV3). The press release goes on to say how TV3 had won many IFTAs and had increased Irish programming during the time of the programme and that it had helped TV3 with such achievements.

The show has many critics and these types of shows have many critics. Irish audiences aren't happy with such shows as proven by the number of complaints that the BCC and BCI got during PlayTV. Radio programmes and social networking sites are taken up with complaints about the show, while also getting a strange cult following. The show itself has "Trolls" a caller who targets such shows for a laugh at the expense of the presenters and the absurdity of such shows.

Since the show began a petition has got under way on the internet. Stop Psychic Readings Live aims to pressure TV3 into axing the programming and perhaps telling the BAI to take action. The site says "In my personal view, I’ve no problem with people who believe in the idea of “psychics” but what I do have a problem with is telling paying customers that their house is going to burn down or that their test results for cancer will be good news. They do state that the service is run “for entertainment purposes only” and yet I refuse to believe that this service is “entertaining” and some of the advice given can come across as downright dangerous"

Premuim Rate Telephone Numbers are regulated by the Office of Communications Regulation (ComReg). ComReg have been regulating premium rate telephone numbers after the Communications Minister at the time, Eamon Ryan, insisted that such phone lines should be regulated after the PlayTV controversy. ComReg have told CCÉ News that they have yet to receive a complaint in relation to Psychics Live.


TV3 - Press Release

Stop Psychic Readings Live - Petition Broadcasting Authority of Ireland - Website

TV3 - Complaints Form

ESO.TV - Ireland Website

Making a complaint: -

1. A complaint must be made directly to the Broadcaster (e.g. TV3, RTÉ, Today FM etc).

2. The broadcaster has 21 days to reply to a complaint

3. If the reply is not satisfactory the complaint can be forwarded to the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI)

4. The BAI send the complaint back to the broadcaster.

5. The broadcaster has 21 days to reply to the complaint.

6. Once the BAI receive a reply they return it to the audience member

7. The audience member has 14 days to inform the BAI if the reply is satisfactory or not.

8. If the reply is not satisfactory the complaint is returned to the BAI, who pass it on to their Executive Complaints Forum (ECF)

9. If the ECF feel that the complaint needs to be investigated further the complaint is passed on to the BAI's Broadcasting Compliance Committee.

10. If the Broadcasting Compliance Committee uphold the complaint the Broadcaster may be asked to inform their audiences of the complaint and issue an apology. The complaints will be published on the BAI's website.