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Ofcom fines Manchester station for 'spiritual helper' ad

Agency punishes DM Digital Television for ad after viewer paid 'healer' £1,500 for advice.

Ofcom has fined DM Digital Television £17,500 for airing a "spiritual helper" ad, which it said exploited the hopes and fears of vulnerable people.

The Manchester-based digital station, which broadcasts mainly in Urdu to the UK Asian community, aired an ad promoting Professor Mohammed Zain as a "spiritual healer". The station had been fined £15,000 for promoting potentially harmful treatments to cure illnesses in 2008.

A social worker contacted Manchester Trading Standards (MTS) on behalf of a viewer, who said she called the professor after seeing the ad, and paid him about £1,500 for offering relationship help.

MTS forwarded the case to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), which found the ad to have breached the CAP (Broadcast) TV Advertising Standards Code.

The advertising watchdog referred the case to Ofcom, which has powers to fine broadcasters for breaching advertising rules.

Ofcom considered the breach to be a serious one because it resulted in financial harm to the viewer.