Dr. Oz has become a ubiquitous television icon. His daily talk show, broadcast in Canada on CTV (owned by Bell Media), rules the daytime TV ratings. In real life, Dr. Oz is a practicing cardiac surgeon and medical researcher. On TV, however, he often plays a weight loss guru, eager to help his viewers “bust their belly fat” with a new “miracle” product seemingly every week. The problem, of course, is that none of these miracles work. Canadian bloggers Yoni Freedhoff, Julia Belluz, Stephen Hoffman and Scott Gavura have done a great job documenting the many, many misrepresentations and outright falsehoods spouted by Dr. Oz and his guests. All of this has made me wonder, is CTV breaking Canadian law by broadcasting the Dr. Oz show?
What law might they be breaking? Canada’s Television Broadcasting Regulations (1987), which regulate all broadcast television, including CTV. These regulations, which are enforced by the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), state that “A licensee shall not broadcast any false or misleading news” (5.1d). You may remember this little regulation from a few years ago, when the CRTC thought about getting rid of it, but backed down under unprecedented public outcry. Apparently we Canadians like to be able to trust our news media. Crazy, eh?
Now, I’m not a lawyer and I’m pretty sure Bell Media has some good ones, so they could probably convince a court that Dr. Oz isn’t “news”. He’s just a daytime TV personality! It’s just entertainment! No one could mistake Dr. Oz as serious news reporting! But of course in the court of real life I’m betting many mistake a renowned cardiac surgeon and a widely published scientist talking about “brand new medical treatments” on a major television network for news.
Okay okay, the expensive lawyers win, Dr. Oz is probably legally (but perhaps not ethically) in the clear, but what about his Canadian contributor, our very own homegrown homeopath TV personality, Bryce Wylde? Haven’t heard of Wylde? Here in Canada he used to host his own program called “Wylde on Health” on CP24 (also owned by Bell Media). That’s right, CP24: “Toronto’s Breaking News”. This program was broadcast alongside weather forecasts, traffic reports, sports scores and breaking news headlines. There is no mistaking it: this program was presented as health news, on a dedicated news channel. These days Wylde is the “health and wellness expert” for CityTV Breakfast Television and CityLine, and also makes guest appearances on CityNews.
Is the information Wylde feeds to his audience false or misleading? His claims about homeopathy for first aid, red palm oil for cardiac disease and weight loss, and high dose vitamin C for cancer being backed by solid scientific evidence certainly are.
But should we care? I think so, but I suspect few of us really feel like there’s much we can do about these gurus of daytime television who regularly make claims that simply aren’t backed up by medical evidence. But maybe there is: maybe it’s time to give the CRTC a call. By clicking the link to the CRTC you’ll be taken to a fill in the blank style website that would allow you to lodge a complaint, and if you think news should in fact be factual, why not take a minute or two to register your concern?