Radio station sanctioned for misleading coronavirus interview

02 April 2020

Ofcom has taken action against a community radio station after it broadcast a discussion that contained potentially harmful views on the coronavirus (Covid-19).

A programme on Uckfield FM featured a guest who was presented to listeners as a health professional. Their views included claims that the coronavirus outbreak was linked to the rollout of 5G technology, and they also cast doubt over reported symptoms of the virus.

Broadcasters have a valuable role to play in informing and updating people about important issues in society, like the coronavirus.

During the current pandemic, it’s important that potentially misleading information about the coronavirus is not broadcast on radio or TV. This includes inaccurate claims about potential causes, symptoms, and treatments for the virus.

So Ofcom is prioritising broadcasting complaints relating to the coronavirus that could cause harm to audiences. These might include:

  • health claims related to the virus;
  • medical advice which may be incorrect; and
  • inaccurate or misleading content relating to the virus or to public policy on it.

The programme on Uckfield FM also included statements which suggested to listeners that they were being misled by information about the virus.

Uckfield Community Radio, the licensee for the station, has apologised for the incident. It said it had taken ‘immediate action’ following contact from Ofcom, and that references to the interview on the station’s social media channels had also been removed.

Given the seriousness of this breach of the broadcasting rules, we required the station to broadcast a summary of our findings to its listeners.