Producers Handbook

Programmes Including Exorcism, the Occult & the Paranormal

The Code states that "Demonstrations of exorcisms, occult practices and the paranormal (which purport to be real) must not be shown before the watershed".

This rule does not apply to drama, film or comedy.

The word "demonstration" implies some sort of physical activity and an actual attempt to undertake these practices, as opposed merely to a discussion of the issues or what's involved.

Note: Ofcom Code guidance provides the following definitions:

  • "Exorcism" means the banishing of unwanted forces or entities from a person, place or thing and may be done in the name of religion or otherwise.
  • "Occult practices" means practices involving secret knowledge or a secret activity usually of a religious, spiritual or mythical nature that invoke unknown powers or forces and risks a negative outcome. It includes most spells, especially those that appear to be aimed at interfering with another person's rights. Tarot is regarded as an occult practice, although insight into the future by means of other types of cards generally falls within the "paranormal".
  • The "paranormal" is unexplained psychic phenomena which is intended to lead to positive outcomes. It includes clairvoyance (seeing what is out of sight), clairaudience (perceiving, as if by hearing, what is inaudible), extra sensory perception and mediumship (communication with the spirits of the dead). However, ouija, given that it is generally deemed to risk a negative outcome, is likely to be classed as occult.


The Code also states that:

  • "Paranormal practices which are for entertainment purposes must not be broadcast when significant numbers of children may be expected to be watching".


  • "Demonstrations of exorcism, the occult, the paranormal, divination, or practices related to any of these that purport to be real (as opposed to entertainment) must be treated with due objectivity".

Thus entertainment programmes which feature paranormal practices, that is programmes where viewers know that what they're seeing is some sort of illusion, as opposed to being the result of some supernatural, unknown force, can be broadcast before the watershed, but not when significant numbers of children may be watching, that is before and after school up until about 8pm on weekdays and throughout the day at weekends and during school holidays.

In addition, there is a requirement that when the above practices are purporting to be real in post-watershed programmes (they could not be shown before), they must be treated with due objectivity, meaning that programmes should not simply accept at face value what is happening as some sort of psychic phenomena but question and explore what alternative explanations might exist.

"Divination" means foretelling the future using magical, religious or supernatural means. There are many forms for example astrology, dice, crystal balls, tarot, tea leaves. Some for example, tarot are deemed to be part of the occult, although most are classed as merely paranormal activities.

When astrology is not based on any religious or paranormal belief system, such as in the case of most daily horoscopes, then it will be suitable for broadcast at any time of day and is not deemed to be a paranormal practice within the definition of the Code. However, when it is based on a paranormal belief system, then it falls within the definition of paranormal practices and the restrictions as outlined above would apply.


The Code also states that:

  • "If a demonstration of exorcism, the occult, the paranormal, divination or practices related to any of these is for entertainment purposes, this must be made clear to viewers".


  • "Demonstrations of exorcism, the occult, the paranormal, divination or practices related to any of these (whether such demonstrations purport to be real or are for entertainment purposes) must not contain life changing advice directed at individuals".

"Life changing advice" is defined as "... direct advice for individuals upon which they could reasonably act or rely about health, finance, employment or relationships". So a clairvoyant telling someone to invest in a particular company or leave their job or their partner is prohibited at any time of day.

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