Broadcast standards during the coronavirus pandemic

06 July 2020

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 broadcastersBulletin issueDate
Coronavirus further update (PDF, 309.0 KB)40326 May 2020
Coronavirus further update (PDF, 239.9 KB)40127 April 2020
Coronavirus (PDF, 198.6 KB)39923 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. Each of these programmes was found to be in serious breach of our rules, and we imposed statutory sanctions on the broadcasters concerned.

ProgrammeServiceTransmission dateIssueOutcomeFull decision
Tony WilliamsUckfield FM Community Radio28 February 2020HarmBreach and SanctionDecision – Uckfield Community Radio Limited
Loveworld NewsLoveworld7 April 2020Harm and due accuracyBreach and SanctionDecision – Loveworld Limited
Your LoveworldLoveworld7 April 2020HarmBreach and SanctionDecision – Loveworld Limited
London Real: Covid-19London Live8 April 2020HarmBreach and SanctionDecision – ESTV Limited

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.

ProgrammeServiceTransmission dateIssueOutcomeFull decision
The Last Leg: Locked Down UnderChannel 48 May 2020Generally accepted standardsNot pursuedThe Last Leg: Locked Down Under, Channel 4, 8 May 2020
(PDF, 264.6 KB)
This MorningITV13 April 2020HarmNot pursued, guidance issuedThis Morning, ITV, 13 April 2020
(PDF, 285.3 KB)