Advanced Television

Ofcom updates Covid-19 news and information research

April 21, 2020

By Colin Mann

UK comms regulator Ofcom has published its latest weekly research on how people are receiving and acting on news and information during the current Coronavirus pandemic.

The report summarises the findings from week three of the ‘lockdown’, including how people’s experiences and behaviour has changed since the previous weeks. It shows, among other things, that:

  • half of all respondents (50 per cent) have come across false or misleading information about Covid-19 – up from 46 per cent in week one;
  • theories linking the origins or causes of Covid-19 to 5G technology are now the most common pieces of false information (seen by 50 per cent of those that have come across any misinformation);
  • the proportion of people who are using fact-checking sites increased from 10 per cent in week one of the ‘lockdown’ to 18 per cent in week two, before decreasing slightly to 15 per cent in week three; and
  • the proportion of people who say they are finding it hard to know what’s true or false about Covid-19 has decreased from 40 per cent in week one, to 32 per cent in week three.

Virtually all respondents continue to say they are closely following the official advice about practising social distancing (98 per cent), only going outside for essential things (97 per cent) and washing hands regularly (94 per cent).

The next wave of the research, covering week four of the ‘lockdown’, will be published on Tuesday April 28th 2020.

Publication of its latest findings follows Ofcom’s announcement that it had imposed a sanction on local television service licensee ESTV London after an interview with English conspiracy theorist, and former footballer and sports broadcaster David Icke on its local television channel London Live included potentially harmful content about the coronavirus pandemic.

It has also considered complaints about comments made by presenter Eamonn Holmes on ITV’s This Morning about misinformation around Covid-19 and 5G technology, and has issued guidance to ITV and its presenters, suggesting 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.


Categories: Articles, Business, Consumer Behaviour, Policy, Regulation, Research, Standards