Ofcom’s decision regarding complaints about Dr Hilary Jones’ comments on ITV’s Lorraine
Ofcom has issued ITV with guidance after it broadcast inaccurate information provided by Dr Hilary Jones on the proportion of unvaccinated Covid-19 patients in hospital.
The information was broadcast in an episode of Lorraine, at 9am on 6 December 2021, and attracted 3,833 complaints from viewers. Having carefully assessed these complaints against our broadcasting rules, we have decided not to launch a formal investigation, but have issued guidance to ITV.
In reaching our decision, we took into account that the programme was live and that a clarification was broadcast on 8 December. This provided viewers with the source of the statistic and clarified that it related to patients receiving the most specialist care in intensive care units, rather than the proportion of unvaccinated Covid-19 patients in hospital.
An Ofcom spokesperson said: “This programme incorrectly referenced the proportion of unvaccinated Covid-19 patients in hospital. We have told ITV that greater care should be taken by trusted medical experts when presenting facts and figures on public health issues.
“However, given official statistics and research have consistently shown that vaccination against Covid-19 offers greater protection against serious health consequences, we do not consider that the error was sufficient to materially mislead viewers on this main point of discussion.”
Our approach to assessing content during the coronavirus pandemic
It’s critical that broadcasters can debate the key issues during the Covid-19 pandemic. We have previously advised broadcasters to take care when airing unverified claims about the virus – including statements that sought to undermine the advice of public health bodies or trust in accurate sources of information.
This doesn’t mean broadcasters cannot air unfounded claims, broadcast controversial views, challenge and critique different policies or offer opinions that diverge from the advice of public bodies. But they must take care to put this content into context when doing so.
Freedom of expression is central to our work and we support broadcasters’ ability to debate the key issues, hold those in power to account, and make sure viewers and listeners can rely on accurate and up-to-date information.
Further information is available about our role in protecting audiences and freedom of expression during the coronavirus pandemic.
Find out more about the Broadcasting Code and how we assess complaints.