Ofcom sanctions London Live, slams Eamon Holmes for 5G fake news | Broadcast | News | Rapid TV News
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In a ringing condemnation of the fake news concerning unfounded inks between 5G mobile networks and Covid-19, UK regulator Ofcom has imposed a sanction on broadcaster ESTV after an interview which it judged contained potentially harmful content and criticised ITV presenter Eamonn Holmes for ill-judged comments that risked undermining viewers.

ESTV’s sanction came after Ofcom judged that an interview with noted conspiracy theorist and former BBC presenter David Icke on its London  Live channel included potentially harmful content about the coronavirus pandemic. Ofcom found Icke  expressed views which had the potential to cause significant harm to viewers in London during the pandemic. It said it was particularly concerned by his comments casting doubt on the motives behind official health advice to protect the public from the virus.

In addition, Ofcom judged that Icke’s assertions went largely unchallenged during the 80-minute interview and were made without the support of any scientific or other evidence. While it acknowledged that Icke had a right to hold and express these views, Ofcom noted that they risked causing significant harm to viewers who may have been particularly vulnerable at the time of broadcast. Indeed it stressed that there was no prohibition on broadcasting views which diverge from or challenge official authorities on public health information.

However, in broadcasting David Icke’s unsubstantiated views without sufficient challenge or context, Ofcom said that ESTV had failed in its responsibility to ensure that viewers were adequately protected. As a result, it was directing London Live to broadcast a summary of our findings on a date and form to be decided and that it was also now considering whether to impose any further sanction.

As regards Holmes, the matter arises from the end of a report on ITV’s This Morning show on 13 April when after a piece by fellow presenter Alice Beer debunking the myths between 5G and Covid-19, the veteran daytime TV host accused UK media of having a “state narrative” on the issue. While agreeing with his colleague, Holmes said: “What I don’t accept is that mainstream media immediately slapping [the fake reports] down as not true when they don’t know it’s not true. No one should attack or damage or do anything like that, but it’s very easy to say ‘it’s not true’ because it suits the state narrative. That’s all I would say as someone with an enquiring mind.”

These remarks were investigated almost immediately but the regulator and now Ofcom has called the comments ‘ambiguous’ and ‘ill-judged’ and risked undermining viewers’ trust in advice from public authorities and scientific evidence. Ofcom added that his statements were also highly sensitive in view of the recent attacks on mobile phone masts in the UK, caused by conspiracy theories linking 5G technology and the virus.

After a wholesome on-air apology by Holmes the day after broadcast and ITV stressing the bogus links were fake news, Ofcom judged that it needed to issue guidance to ITV and its presenters. It emphasised that discussions about unproven claims and theories which could undermine viewers’ trust in official public health information must be put fully into context to ensure viewers are protected. These responsibilities are especially important when ongoing events – such as mobile phone masts in the UK being attacked – risk significant harm to the public.