Believe TV channel 'exploited viewers' says Ofcom

Vulnerable viewers could have been "exploited" by a religious television channel which told them they could cure serious illnesses including cancer with olive oil soap and Ribena, according to communications watchdog Ofcom.

A report published today found Believe TV was in breach of the broadcasting code.

It cited the example of two programmes featuring televangelist Paul Lewis which were shown in December 2010.

In one exchange with a woman, Mr Lewis said: "I told you to take a bath with one of my olive oil soaps and what happened?" and she replied: "I have cancer no more."

Ofcom also said it was concerned about other material that "contained examples of potentially unsubstantiated and dangerous claims about the healing of serious conditions such as infertility and cancer".

One example from a broadcast by Pastor Alex Omokudu Healing Ministry Testimonies in 2010 included a testimony by a woman who said she had suffered from "a tumour in her head".

One of her relatives said she had bought oil and Ribena, allegedly representing the blood of Christ, to treat the tumour and later went to hospital where she was told "there wasn't a problem".

The report concluded "there was a material risk that susceptible members of the audience may be exploited by the material broadcast on Believe TV".

Ofcom said the channel faced "statutory sanction" with potential punishments including a fine or a loss of its licence.

The report also revealed Ofcom had "uncovered potential further concerns" about the channel which are still being investigated.