Religious TV channel Loveworld UK has been fined £25,000 by Ofcom for broadcasting unsubstantiated conspiracy theories about the Covid-19 pandemic and the vaccine.
The channel was found to have breached the broadcasting watchdog’s rules two times already this year, with a previous fine of £125,000 being filed in March.
This latest incident regards two episodes of their daytime current affairs show Full Disclosure from February 11 and 12.
During the programme, the presenters ‘made a number of unevidenced, materially misleading and potentially harmful statements about the coronavirus pandemic and vaccines’, said Ofcom.
Leading the programme is Christian Kitoko alongside a rotating panel of presenters.
Among the false claims made on the channel are that the coronavirus vaccine makes you feel as ill as the actual illness and that there are serious side effects and medical complications that can result from the jabs, though trials have shown the vaccines to be safe and effective.
Since the start of the vaccine rollout, almost 49 million people in the UK have received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, of which 45 million (that’s 67% of the population) got both doses.
Meanwhile, since the start of the pandemic, the UK has seen almost 8 million cases and 137,000 deaths, with 166 people dying yesterday alone, the majority being unvaccinated individuals.
Ofcom did not deny Loveworld UK or any other broadcaster the right to discuss and scrutinise the Government’s public health response to the coronavirus pandemic and the effects of the vaccine, being in the public interest to do so.
‘However, Loveworld’s presentation of misleading claims without sufficient challenge or context risked causing serious potential harm to viewers, at a time when people were particularly likely to be seeking reliable information relating to the UK’s vaccination programme,’ said Ofcom, labelling the rule breaches ‘serious’.
A spokeswoman for the office told PA: ‘Broadcasters have editorial freedom to debate the response to coronavirus – including the vaccination programme.
‘However, unproven claims must be put into sufficient context, and our investigation found that these programmes contained harmful, unevidenced statements.
‘We consider this a serious breach of our rules and have today sanctioned Loveworld by imposing a financial penalty of £25,000.’
Ofcom previously noted how they are currently prioritising cases and complaints related to coronavirus as they could cause potential harm to viewers.
Loveworld UK’s offering of programmes is of an Evangelical Christian denomination.
‘Through our programming, we are able to display Godly values and help the everyday Christian live a life of value and meaning,’ they state on their Facebook page, which has 38,000 likes.
What is Ofcom and what does it cover?
Ofcom is the regulator for the communications services that we use and rely on each day.
The watchdog makes sure people get the best from their broadband, home phone and mobile services, as well as keeping an eye on TV and radio.
Ofcom deals with most content on television, radio and video-on-demand services, including the BBC. However, if your complaint is about something you saw or heard in a BBC programme, you may need to complain to the BBC first.
Its rules for television and radio programmes are set out in the Broadcasting Code.
The rules in the Broadcasting Code also apply to the BBC iPlayer.
This Broadcasting Code is the rule book that broadcasters have to follow and it covers a number of areas, including; protecting the under-18s, protecting audiences from harmful and/or offensive material and ensuring that news, in whatever form, is reported with due accuracy and presented with due impartiality.
Audiences can complain to Ofcom if they believe a breach of the Broadcasting Code has been made.
Every time Ofcom receives a complaint from a viewer or listener, they assess it to see if it needs further investigation.
If Ofcom decide to investigate, they will include the case in a list of new investigations, published in the Broadcast and On Demand Bulletin.
An investigation is a formal process which can take some time depending on the complexity of the issues involved.
Ofcom can also launch investigations in the absence of a complaint from a viewer or listener.