14 January 2010

Who ya gonna call? Consumer Affairs, the ACCC and the ACMA!

The Nine Network’s A Current Affair ran a story on Thursday night about a “haunted” nursing home in Queensland. The story centred on an “investigation” by a crowd called Queensland Paranormal Investigators, whose people wore prominent “QPI” shirts throughout.

Apart from being hysterically farcical - investigator “Shane” said at one point “it feels male”, making us wonder which part of the poltergeist he was touching – the whole segment appears to have been a blatant plug. Not only was the name of the firm mentioned several times during the story, but the host back in the studio then referred viewers to the ACA website for more information.

The web story turns out to be an uncritical piece of promotion for these fraudsters, with repetition by ACA of claims like these:
  • QPI use “scientific and psychic methods”
  • QPI use “more than $100,000 worth of ghost hunting equipment to determine the strange activity including... electronic voice phenomena recorders to pick up ghostly voices the human ear cannot hear”
  • Members of the QPI team “have experience and qualifications which allow them to compile and analyse scientific, historical and psychic evidence”
  • QPI “provide their clients with full documentation on completion of each investigation”.
And, of course, there’s a link to the QPI website, where they state clearly that “we are not a Not For Profit organisation”. So they are running a commercial operation “investigating” ghosts, hauntings and other paranormal activity? “Paging Dr Venkman. Dr Peter Venkman.”

But isn’t ACA the program that chases fraudsters down the street and demands answers from those who would hoodwink Aussie battlers and pensioners with their scams? The same program that fearlessly uses hidden cameras to expose rip-off artists and tradies who charge gullible consumers megabucks to fix non-existent problems?

Non-existent problems like ghosts, perhaps?

All right, so QPI will be dismissed by most people as hilarious losers (their website makes the comically underwhelming claim that they are “the only professional paranormal investigation team in Queensland with a thermal imaging camera”).

But how can ACA risk its credibility as a "scam-busting" program by presenting complete and utter bullshit like this? Did ACA receive payment or consideration for this story? If not, why did they let QPI's claims of "scientific" method go unchallenged?

As someone who has appeared on ACA from time to time to comment on marketing issues - drawing on published studies in consumer behaviour and peer-reviewed academic literature on marketing and brand management - I actually feel embarrassed to have been seen in the same company as these charlatans.

After tonight, don't expect any further ACA appearances - ghostly or otherwise - from me.


Anonymous said...

If this is the same story that I recall seeing, they had a photo that'magically appeared' with a woman blah, blah m blah. They said that it could not have been altered, but the time was incorrect. Most digital cameras use a sequential numbering system, if you seed a number in the middle i.e. P_00005.JPG, the camera will happily take Photos, P_00001.jpg, P_00002.jpg, P_00003.jpg, P_00004.jpg and P_00006.jpg etc, leaving P_00005.jpg intact...

Eddie said...

The only surprise here is you only feel some shame in appearing on ACA now they have run a story on ghost busters. Where were your principles before? ACA and TT are vile scabs on the crotch that is the Oz tele industry. Why help them along with on air contributions?

Stephen Downes said...

Fair enough criticism, Eddie.

I was first approached by ACA to provide comments through the tertiary institution where I taught, so I guess I felt some kind of obligation.

Call me naive, but I did have the impression that ACA was interested in consumer protection and scam-busting (as long as it gets ratings, I guess).