Complaint by Scientist Dr. Rupert Sheldrake Upheld by Official Adjudication
In August 2005, with many subsequent repeats, National Geographic TV Channel broadcast a programme called “Is It Real? Psychic Animals” (also called “Is It Real? Animal Oracles”) in which a professional media skeptic tried to debunk Dr. Rupert Sheldrake and Aimee Morgana’s research on the telepathic abilities of a parrot, N’kisi.
The skeptic, a person with no scientific credentials, and the National Geographic commentator made unfair and misleading criticisms to which Dr. Sheldrake was given no chance to respond. He had agreed to take part in the programme only after being assured by National Geographic that the presentation would be fair and unbiased.
Dr. Sheldrake filed an official complaint with the British Government Office of Communications, Ofcom, which is charged with ensuring that broadcasters behave fairly.
In March 2006, Ofcom issued a Provisional Adjudication upholding two out of three of Dr. Sheldrake’s complaints. National Geographic’s lawyers appealed against it, but Ofcom rejected their appeal and issued a final Adjudication in Dr. Sheldrake’s favour on June 12, 2006.
National Geographic was required to broadcast the summary of the Adjudication on June 26, 2005.
Summary of the Adjudication
Dr. Rupert Sheldrake
“Is it Real? Psychic Animals”
National Geographic Channel – UK
Various dates 25 July – 7 Oct 2005
The programme titled “Is it Real? Psychic Animals” questioned whether it was possible that some animals had psychic abilities.
The communications regulator, Ofcom, received a complaint from one of the programme’s participants Dr Rupert Sheldrake. Before Dr. Sheldrake took part in the programme, National Geographic assured him that they would present his research fairly. He complained that his research was not presented fairly and he had not been given an adequate opportunity to respond to criticisms in the programme. Ofcom upheld these parts of his complaint.
The programme provided details of an experiment Dr. Sheldrake conducted with an animal and aimed to replicate the test. The programme then went on to make a highly critical analysis of Dr Sheldrake’s research techniques. Ofcom found that it was fair for the programme to broadcast these opposing views.
However, Dr. Sheldrake was not given an opportunity to respond to these criticisms which may have had a damaging effect on his professional credentials. This resulted in unfairness to Dr Sheldrake. Ofcom also found that since he was not given an opportunity to respond, National Geographic did not keep to its pre-broadcast assurance that it would present Dr. Sheldrake’s research fairly.