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A SHIFT in society's attitudes towards alternative beliefs and practices has been identified by new research commissioned by the Independent Television Commission (ITC) and Broadcasting Standards Commission (BSC), published on November 28.
‘Beyond Entertainment’ shows that many viewers regard alternative practices such as yoga and homeopathy as familiar and mainstream and are happy to see them covered on television.
Other practices, such as clairvoyance and clairaudience were considered more borderline, with some viewers regarding them as predominantly harmless, and others who felt they had the capacity to exploit and harm individuals. The research identified a clear division between attitudes to these kinds of 'psychic practices', and 'the occult'.
The latter included black magic, voodoo and Ouija; such practices were judged to be risky and dangerous, with the potential for outside manipulation and control. Viewer attitudes to the two differed significantly, with the latter often considered unsuitable for broadcast at any time, or not until after the watershed and only on specialist channels.
The broadcasting regulators commissioned the research to gain a fuller understanding of viewer attitudes towards alternative beliefs and practices to ensure that current broadcasting regulations are in line with public expectations.
At present, some niche channels broadcast programmes featuring the 'softer' kind of psychic practices, such as clairvoyance. The regulators wanted to see how widespread acceptance was of this kind of content, and whether it would be considered acceptable on mainstream channels such as BBC1 or ITV1.
Head of Audience Research, Andrea Millwood-Hargrave, said: “This research, the first of its kind, is invaluable in helping us understand and anticipate viewer attitudes towards, and concerns about, different types of alternative practices as portrayed on television. It is encouraging to note that these findings broadly support the current regulations, and they will certainly inform our judgements about the suitability of individual programmes and advertisements, in terms of their content and of their scheduling on different channels and at different times.” (CD)
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