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OFCOM concerned at TV ‘healing’

10 May 2013

CONCERNS that television ministries in miraculous signs and wonders could be endangering lives prompted a meeting last month between representatives of Black Churches in Britain, and the broadcasting standards watchdog OFCOM.

Convened by Minority Ethnic Christian Affairs (MECA) of Churches at Together in England, the meeting was attended by about 30 representatives of MECA. They heard a presentation from OFCOM ex- plaining "its legal remit to regulate UK-based TV and radio broadcasters in a manner that protects the public from harm, or offence, while not interfering with legitimate rights to freedom of religious expression".

Last year, OFCOM fined The Light Academy Ltd £25,000, after Believe TV, a Christian channel for which it holds the licence, breached the broadcasting code. The regulator ruled that it had not protected members of the public "from the inclusion in such services of harmful and/or offensive material".

Among the content deemed to have breached the regulations was "Paul Lewis Ministries", in which a tele-evangelist provided "healing" through the use of his "Miracle Olive Oil Soap".

In February, the BBC conducted an investigation into Miracle Hour, shown on Faith World TV, which featured Bishop Simon Iheanacho "healing" a diabetic caller. OFCOM advises all broadcasters who transmit religious content that contains examples of faith healing "to ensure that viewers who are vulnerable . . . are adequately protected from potential harm and exploitation".

On Tuesday, the executive secretary of MECA, Bishop Joe Aldred, who organised the meeting, said that he shared "long-standing concerns about the way in which those programmes are run, and the potential they have for good - but also for harm". Bishop Aldred felt that "most" of those concerned had been reassured by OFCOM's response.

A statement from MECA issued after the meeting said that the representatives had "agreed that while freedom of religious expression is a right, claims about miraculous healings must not be made lightly or without corroboration. Listeners to this type of broadcast should be encouraged to seek medical advice before making any change to their treatment regimes."

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