Health and wealth claims in programming: Audience attitudes to potential harm

18 July 2017

In recent years, Ofcom has received complaints about several general and religious programmes that included potentially harmful health or wealth advice and claims.

On investigation, Ofcom identified that in some of these cases, there was a risk that vulnerable viewers and listeners could:

  • Be discouraged from seeking medical advice for potentially serious health concerns
  • Be discouraged from giving proper weight to that advice
  • Stop an existing course of medical treatment without proper advice
  • Be harmed by alternative treatments or their combination with conventional medicine
  • Suffer financial loss or harm due to wealth advice or claims made in a programme

Ofcom commissioned this research, consisting of a series of focus groups and in-depth interviews with members of the public, to inform its decisions about whether potentially harmful content involving health or wealth claims in programmes is in breach of the Code.

The specific objectives of this research were to:

  • Explore public attitudes to health and wealth claims made in general and in religious programming.
  • Explore public attitudes to the potential for harm from programming, including the extent to which, and the ways in which, it might present a risk of harm to audiences in general and specifically to vulnerable people.
  • Explore whether the steps broadcasters take to protect audiences from potential harm in these programmes is acceptable and effective, such as messages advising audiences to consult a qualified medical practitioner.
  • Provide evidence to inform Ofcom in balancing the need to protect audiences from potential harm against the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of religion.

Health and wealth claims in programming: Audience attitudes to potential harm (PDF, 2.8 MB)