Ofcom alerted broadcasters it would take quick and firm action against TV or radio channels transmitting harmful and misleading information about coronavirus – and it has followed through on its warning. A guest on the community radio station at Uckfield (a retired nurse) was interviewed and allowed to promote the mad conspiracy theory that coronavirus was caused by 5G telecoms technology.
The guest was not sufficiently challenged about their completely untrue claims. With a number of documented attacks on 5G masts as a result of this conspiracy theory spread by social media, one wonders about the wisdom of interviewing this guest in the first place.
Two listeners understandably complained to Ofcom. The regulator acted swiftly. The broadcast was made on 28 February and by 2 April Ofcom had finished its investigation, found the station had breached the Code seriously, put the decision on its website and sanctioned the broadcaster by compelling it to broadcast a statement of its findings. The decision is published in today’s Broadcast Bulletin (6 April 2020).
Congratulations to my former colleagues at Ofcom for acting so quickly in an area of public concern. I doubt if many broadcasters would have made similar errors but this case acts as a timely shot across their bows about giving airtime to people with potentially harmful views.