Coronavirus: Ofcom rules on Eamonn Holmes and David Icke comments

BBC Technology 20 Apr 2020 04:32
David Icke and Eamonn HolmesImage copyright LONDONLIVE/ITV

Broadcasting watchdog Ofcom has "issued guidance" to ITV following Eamonn Holmes' comments about 5G technology and coronavirus on This Morning.

The regulator said Holmes' remarks had been "ambiguous" and "ill-judged".

Ofcom said they "risked undermining viewers' trust in advice from public authorities and scientific evidence".

The regulator also found local TV channel London Live in breach of standards for an interview it aired with David Icke about coronavirus.

Conspiracy theorist Icke, it said, had "expressed views which had the potential to cause significant harm to viewers in London during the pandemic".

On 13 April, in a segment with This Morning's consumer editor Alice Beer, Holmes cast doubt on media outlets that had debunked the myth that 5G causes coronavirus.

"I totally agree with everything you are saying," said Holmes. "But what I don't accept is mainstream media immediately slapping that down as not true when they don't know it's not true.

Holmes was widely criticised for his comments, which he said had been "misinterpreted" on the following day's programme.

Ofcom said it had taken this on-air statement into account, along with the "context" Beer had provided, before deciding to issue guidance to ITV "and its presenters".

"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.

"However, 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."

In a separate ruling, Ofcom said ESTV, owner of London-based TV channel London Live, had broken broadcasting rules by airing an interview with former footballer and TV presenter Icke.

While not mentioning 5G by name, Icke referred to an "electro-magnetic, technologically generated soup of radiation toxicity" that he claimed had damaged old people's immune systems.

Ofcom said it was "particularly concerned" by Icke "casting doubt on the motives behind official health advice to protect the public from the virus".

The London Live programme was produced by a London-based independent company.

The channel will be required to broadcast a summary of Ofcom's findings and may face additional sanctions from the media regulator.

Unfounded theories

Fact-checking charity Full Fact has linked the claims to two flawed theories.

One falsely suggests 5G suppresses the immune system, the other falsely claims the virus is somehow using the network's radio waves to communicate and pick victims, accelerating its spread.

Earlier this year, scientists at the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection completed a major study of related research into the topic.

The second theory appears to be based on the work of a Nobel Prize-winning biologist who suggested bacteria could generate radio waves.

There's another major flaw with both these theories. Coronavirus is spreading in UK cities where 5G has yet to be deployed, and in countries like Japan and Iran that have yet to adopt the technology.

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OfcomEamonn HolmesHolmesIckeLondon Live
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