Broadcast standards during the coronavirus pandemic

Published: 7 March 2023
Last updated: 16 March 2023

This page sets out information about Ofcom's enforcement of broadcast standards during the coronavirus pandemic.

What is Ofcom's role in broadcast standards during the pandemic?

Ofcom has a duty to set and enforce broadcast standards in the content of TV and radio programmes. These standards are set out in the Broadcasting Code.

We recognise that audiences will want to receive, and broadcasters will want to broadcast, content about the coronavirus pandemic, and that the communication of accurate and up-to-date information to audiences is essential.

However, we expect broadcasters to be alert to the potential for significant harm to audiences related to the coronavirus, which could include:

  • health claims related to the virus which may be harmful;
  • medical advice which may be harmful; and,
  • accuracy or material misleadingness in programmes in relation to the virus or public policy regarding it.

Consistent with the right to freedom of expression, broadcasters have the editorial freedom to analyse, discuss and challenge issues relating to the coronavirus. If broadcasters include potentially harmful material in their programming, they must ensure they provide adequate protection for the audience from such material.

Ofcom has published the following notes to broadcasters regarding the coronavirus which include guidance on broadcast content relating to the coronavirus.

Note to broadcasters Bulletin issueDate
Coronavirus update to broadcast licensees (PDF, 217.9 KB) 424 12 April 2021
Coronavirus further update (PDF, 208.0 KB) 414 9 November 2020
Coronavirus further update (PDF, 309.0 KB) 403 26 May 2020
Coronavirus further update (PDF, 239.9 KB) 401 27 April 2020
Coronavirus (PDF, 198.6 KB) 399 23 March 2020

As always, we expect broadcasters to consider carefully Ofcom’s Broadcasting Code and our previously published guidance. In particular, our guidance on Section Two: Harm and Offence and Section Five: Due impartiality and Due Accuracy of the Code may be particularly relevant when complying content related to the coronavirus pandemic.

How has Ofcom enforced broadcast standards during the coronavirus pandemic?

Ofcom has investigated the following programmes which included discussion of the coronavirus pandemic.

ProgrammeService Transmission dateIssueOutcome Full decision
Mark SteynGB News21 April 2022Misleading materialBreachDecision - Mark Steyn
(PDF, 364.7 KB)
Full DisclosureLoveworld Television Network11-12 February 2021Harm and misleading materialBreach and sanction

Decision – Loveworld Limited (PDF, 593.0 KB)

Further Sanction Decision (PDF, 258.8 KB)

Global Day of PrayerLoveworld Television Network1 December 2020Harm and due accuracyBreach and sanctionDecision – Loveworld Limited (PDF, 491.6 KB)
Further Sanction Decision (PDF, 242.0 KB)
The Family Programme New Style Radio 98.7FM 1 November 2020 Harm Breach and sanction Decision – New Style Radio (PDF, 444.7 KB)
Further Sanction Decision (PDF, 280.1 KB)
London Real: Covid-19 London Live 8 April 2020 Harm Breach and sanction Decision – ESTV Limited (PDF, 455.7 KB)
Your Loveworld Loveworld Television Network 7 April 2020 Harm Breach and sanction Decision – Loveworld Limited (PDF, 261.7 KB)
Loveworld News Loveworld Television Network 7 April 2020 Harm and due accuracy Breach and sanction Decision – Loveworld Limited (PDF, 648.5 KB)
Tony Williams Uckfield FM Community Radio 28 February 2020 Harm Breach and sanction Decision – Uckfield Community Radio Limited (PDF, 311.9 KB)

During the pandemic, we have also assessed a large number of complaints relating to coronavirus-related programming, which we considered did not raise issues warranting investigation under our rules. Given the significant public concern about the following programmes, however, Ofcom published its reasons for its assessments.

ProgrammeService Transmission dateIssueOutcome Full decision
The Last Leg: Locked Down Under Channel 4 8 May 2020 Generally accepted standards Not pursued The Last Leg: Locked Down Under, Channel 4, 8 May 2020
(PDF, 264.6 KB)
This Morning ITV 13 April 2020 Harm Not pursued, guidance issued This Morning, ITV, 13 April 2020
(PDF, 285.3 KB)
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