An Ofcom investigation has found that religious satellite television channel Loveworld breached broadcasting rules for the second time in a year.
During the course of a 29-hour programme – The Global Day of Prayer – news content and sermons presented potentially harmful, unsubstantiated theories about the Coronavirus, without providing adequate protection for viewers.
Some of the statements claimed that the pandemic is a “planned” event created by the “deep state” for nefarious purposes, and that the vaccine is a “sinister” means of administering “nanochips” to control and harm people. Some statements claimed that “fraudulent” testing had been carried out to deceive the public about the existence of the virus and the scale of the pandemic. Others linked the cause of Covid-19 to the roll out of 5G technology.
Ofcom stresses that legitimate debate about the official response to the Coronavirus pandemic is fundamental to holding public authorities to account during a global health crisis – particularly when public freedoms are curtailed and complex policy decisions are being taken. However, the potentially harmful claims made during this programme were unsupported by any factual evidence and went entirely without challenge.
Loveworld’s failure to put these unsubstantiated statements into context risked serious harm to its audience, according to Ofcom. They had the potential to undermine confidence in public health measures put in place to tackle Covid-19, at a time when cases, hospital admissions and deaths were rising in the UK.
Given these serious failings, Ofcom concluded that the Licensee, Loveworld Limited, did not adequately protect viewers from the potentially harmful content included in the programme, and that its news reports were not duly accurate.
It has directed Loveworld Limited not to repeat the programme, and to broadcast a summary of the regulator’s findings. Given the seriousness of this breach and that this is Loveworld Limited’s second of this nature, Ofcom is also considering whether any further sanction is warranted.