The Australian Communications and Media Authority has come down strongly on Channel Nine over a programme on weight loss through hypnotherapy. The channel was guilty of breaching the Commercial Television Industry Code of Practice 2004 (the code).
The charge relates to a segment of the program A Current Affair,
entitled 'Think Slim', broadcast by the Nine Network on 8 September 2008.
The program that was likely, in all the circumstances, to be designed to induce a hypnotic state in viewers, it was held.
Throughout the segment, references are made by the program's host, the reporter and the hypnotherapist himself, to the fact that the segment would feature the hypnotherapist demonstrating a hypnotic process designed to assist with weight loss. The segment culminates in a brief hypnotherapy session that lasts for approximately one minute.
The ACMA found that the licensee breached clause 1.8.3 of the code in that the remarks made throughout the segment, in addition to the actual short hypnotherapy session that concluded the segment, clearly indicate that the segment was intended to induce a hypnotic state in viewers and help them lose weight.
The ACMA also found that the licensee breached clause 7.10 of the code by failing to provide a substantive written response to the complainant within the timeframe required by the code.
The complainant stated that he had not received a response from the Nine Network to his written complaint. Nine claimed that it had no record of having received the faxed complaint. However, as the complainant provided the ACMA with an extract from his Telstra account indicating that a fax had been sent to Nine on the date as specified, the ACMA concluded that a valid code complaint had been made and that there was no substantive response provided in writing within the required timeframe.
In a communiqué the ACMA notes that this is the first time that a Nine licensee has breached clause 1.8.3 of the code and the first time that a Nine licensee has breached clause 7.10 of the code since February 2007.
In response, Nine informed the ACMA that it had circulated the report findings to all relevant personnel and that it will be specifically referenced in its September training session for producers and reporters involved in Nine Network news programs, A Current Affair
and 60 Minutes.
The ACMA considers these actions address the compliance issues raised by the investigation and will continue to monitor the licensee's performance in this regard, in particular its complaints-handling practices, it was stated.