Even as shows promoting medicines or practices that can supposedly cure diseases continue on Indian television, the UK’s media regulator OfCom has fined a Hindi channel owned by the Zee Group 25,000 pounds (about Rs 25 lakh) for airing a programme in which a yoga practitioner claimed to have treated thousands of patients suffering from diseases such as cancer and hernia.
The programme was aired in the UK on a channel called Lamhe, which is owned by India’s leading broadcaster Zee Network. The show called ‘Yoga For You’ was targeted at international audiences in which the presenter, Dr Pankaj Naram, promoted practices and medicines for a better lifestyle.
In its ruling, the UK’s independent regulator for the communications industry said: “OfCom found that the claims made in the programme amounted to medical advice and as a result some viewers with serious medical conditions might not seek, forego, or delay conventional medical treatment on the basis of what they had seen.”
OfCom said it found the claim made by Dr Naram, that he had 75,000 cancer patients living normally for 15 years after they were told by the doctors that they wouldn’t live for over three months, dodgy. The watchdog said there was an appreciable risk of harm to viewers who followed the alternative treatments advised in the programme.
Zee TV has withdrawn the show and agreed to pay the fine imposed by OfCom. “It was a mistake,” said Neeraj Dhingra, CEO, Zee TV, Europe. “In India, ayurveda is a recognised practice. Therefore, shows promoting ayurvedic cures for diseases are not seen in violation of the law of the land. Here (Europe), ayurveda is not a recognised science so any claims to treat diseases outside of the legal medical framework run foul of the law,” said Dhingra, adding that the show was immediately withdrawn.
In India, television shows promoting alternative medicines and practices that claim to cure serious diseases such as diabetes or hypertension among many others are common. While the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and industry watchdog Advertising Standards Council of India keep raising red flags from time to time and have forced withdrawal of several such shows, the practice continues unabated.
Zee TV, though, has clarified that it doesn’t run the show in question in India.