Manchester and East Lancashire station Asian Sound Radio failed to protect its listeners from harm during a medical phone-in, Ofcom has found.
The station broadcast an hour-long Urdu-language programme with Rama Chande, an ayurvedic practitioner.
Listeners called in to ask Chande’s advice on a range of medical and health conditions including arthritis, acne, psoriasis, migraines, back pain, fungal infections, hearing loss, bad eye sight and constipation.
Ofcom’s independent translation of the calls included: Rama Chande: “And I have good mind power capsules, which improve your memory, and [if given to your children] your children will become very clever and intelligent. It is very good for those children who are slow.”
The regulator described the incident as a “serious contravention” of its rules.
Caller: “Salaam. My brother is [indistinct] and we were wondering if he could grow a bit taller.”
Rama Chande: “How old is he?”
Caller: “He is 23.”
Rama Chande: “Yes, you can raise your height up to the age of 25.”
Caller: “His height at the moment is four feet eight inches.”
Rama Chande: “It can be raised.”
Caller: “He has an illness since childhood. Will it affect it?”
Rama Chande: “No, these products have no side effects. These are pure ayurvedic herbal.”
Throughout the programme, Rama Chande gave out her telephone number and address and told listeners to visit, call or write to her for further medical advice, or to collect in person the ayurvedic products they bought from her.
Ofcom found that listeners weren’t advised to consult a qualified medical practitioner about any of the issues they were calling about, or before using any ayurvedic products promoted by Chande.
Asian Sound initially told the regulator that it “constantly mentioned” the need to get medical advice. However, it later realised this had not been the case during this programme, adding: “we did not intend to misinform or mislead Ofcom in any way. Our comments arose from an error based on an honest misunderstanding. This in turn was connected with on-going staff restructuring within our organisation.”
The regulator considered there was a material risk that listeners may have thought the medical conditions could be treated by the ayurvedic products supplied by Rama Chande alone, and that conventional medical treatment could be abandoned. This was in breach of Rule 2.1 of its Broadcasting Code.
Ofcom said it was “very concerned about the lack of adequate protection given to listeners in this programme. Our concern was heightened by the inaccurate representations originally made to Ofcom by Asian Sound… This contravention of the Code is therefore serious.”
However, because this was the first breach by Asian Sound in the station’s 16-year history, it was let off with a warning that any similar compliance issues would lead to “further regulatory action”.