“No advertisement shall contain references which are likely to lead the public to infer that the product advertised or any of its ingredients has some special or miraculous or super-natural property or quality, which is difficult of being proved.” – Rule 7(5), The Cable Television Networks Rules, 1994.
Everybody knows that Indian television features many astrology shows. These are not the religious shows which have discourses on gods and religious stories. Many regional news channels depend on this kind of content for their programming line-up in the early hours of the morning.
This content mainly includes interactive shows where viewers telephone the “gurus” and ask for remedies for various problems. They also include advertisements of products that offer miraculous solutions to problems. The shows also explain planetary positions and their astrological implications.
At times, this can go even more extreme. For example, India Today recently invited a tarot card reader and an astrologer to predict the Uttar Pradesh Assembly election results.
Why do news channels include astrological content?
Astrology sells. Anti-science riff-raff sells.
Ranjit Bhattacharya, a senior research scholar of Jadavpur University, says, “[These shows’] target audience is very specific. You will see that their targets are mainly homemakers and retired people. They are the ones who strongly believe in astrology. They just give a hint of a solution and then follow it up with their phone numbers.”
What the government has said
Keeping in mind the sensitivity of this kind of content and the level of superstition attached to these shows, the government (through the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting) had issued an advisory to TV channels in 2013: “Whereas, it has come to the notice of this Ministry that a number of TV channels are telecasting programmes which appear to encourage superstition and blind belief. Unsubstantiated claims are made in advertisements/advertorials about the impact of a product. The ordinary and gullible audience is trapped easily believing them to be true. Such advertisements/advertorials, therefore, are not only misleading, they also appear to encourage superstition and blind belief among the viewers.”
The statement continued: “It has also been noticed by this Ministry that most advertorials relating to Astrology, Vastu, so called discourses by Gurus and self-proclaimed healers are being shown for hours together in such a way that might lead viewers to believe they are watching programmes, even though they are actually watching advertisements. This is a complete violation of the Advertising Code, particularly rule 7(5), contained in the Cable Television Networks Rules, 1994.”
The Logical Indian take: Don’t ban them – boycott them
The Logical Indian community has always been passionate supporters of free speech. Consequently, free speech means the freedom to be wrong. That is the essence of free speech: the legal freedom to be incorrect, to hold true to your beliefs, and be certain that your rights will not be compromised by any government.
Another point is the conclusive, extensive evidence which has substantially proved that astrology is not science. Astrology has no scientific validity. It is impossible to predict one’s fortunes from the arrangement of stars in the night sky or the arrangement of lines in one’s palms.
And anyone who suggests that this is possible is either a scamster or is deluded. What such a person absolutely is, is anti-science, anti-truth, and anti-reason.
Understanding the above points, we must accept two reasonable conclusions:
- Astrology is anti-science. It has no basis in fact, and astrologers are either tricksters or genuinely deluded people.
- Even an astrologer – even a liar – has the right to propagate their views. That is the essence of free speech; what is the right of rationalists is also the right of the anti-science lobby.
Therefore, the most democratic and efficient way to combat such tricksters is not by banning them. No, banning them will make them martyrs and will in no way help us in our main goal of curbing such anti-reason sentiments once and for all.
The best way, actually, is by boycotting them. An astrologer has the right to free speech; he or she does not, however, have the right to be heard. We as responsible citizens should boycott such shows, condemn them on social media and in the public, challenge them on their views, write against them, speak against them, demonstrate against them, and write to television programmers opposing the broadcast of such liars.
By doing this, we could bring television programmers to their senses. They will realise that the audience is not as dumb or irrational. Eventually, they will do away with such anti-science riffraff on their own, with no government intervention required and free speech championed all the while.