An Ofcom investigation has found that coronavirus coverage on the religious satellite television channel Loveworld breached broadcasting rules for a third time.
Full Disclosure is a current affairs programme in which presenters discuss a range of topics of public interest. During two episodes in February 2021, presenters made a number of materially misleading and potentially harmful statements about the coronavirus pandemic and vaccines, which were made without scientific or other credible basis, and which went without sufficient context or challenge. This risked potential serious harm to viewers, particularly at a time when people were likely to be seeking reliable information relating to the UK’s vaccination programme.
Overall, Ofcom considered that each programme presented a number of materially misleading and potentially harmful claims about the coronavirus, which would have put viewers at significant risk. Ofcom does not seek to curb or limit the ability of a broadcaster to present programmes from a religious perspective, or to transmit programmes which express views that may be considered controversial and challenge established thinking. Ofcom emphasises that views can be aired which are different to, scrutinise or robustly question official authorities on public health information, particularly during a global health crisis and it is clearly in the public interest to do so. Legitimate challenge and debate are essential, particularly when public freedoms are significantly curtailed and complex policy decisions are being made.
However, Ofcom considered that the claims made in both of these programmes went far beyond reasonable scrutiny and debate. It was concerned that the presenters had a position of influence to present a number of highly misleading and harmful statements as fact without challenge. Its concern was heightened by the fact the presenters appeared to use a number of discredited sources and already disproved theories to provide materially misleading and harmful information to a potentially vulnerable audience.
This is the third time that harmful coronavirus-related content on Loveworld has broken Ofcom’s rules. We recently reported on its imposition of a £125,000 fine on the channel for a breach which also related to claims about the coronavirus pandemic. Ofcom says that it has directed Loveworld to air a summary of the decision, and it is now considering whether to impose any further sanctions. Given that this is the third “offence”, it seems likely that another fine may be imposed.
the presenters had a position of influence to present a number of highly misleading and harmful statements as fact without challenge