Ofcom, a regulatory authority for broadcasting in the United Kingdom, has imposed a sanction on Loveworld Limited for airing potentially harmful claims about the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
Loveworld is a religious television channel owned by Nigerian pastor, Chris Oyakhilome, who has himself championed outrageous claims about the coronavirus outbreak.
Ofcom announced in a statement on Monday, May 18, 2020, that a news programme and a live sermon on the channel aired unsubstantiated claims that 5G technology was the cause of the pandemic, and that the outbreak was the subject of a global cover-up.
The agency said the report on 5G was particularly sensitive because in the preceding days a number of attacks had been committed on mobile phone masts in the UK as a result of claims that 5G technology had caused, or was in some way linked to, the coronavirus.
"There is no reputable scientific evidence to corroborate the claim that there is a link between 5G technology and the Coronavirus, which runs contrary to both the international and UK official position," Ofcom said.
The media watchdog also noted that it found fault with a sermon broadcast on the channel that cast serious doubt on the necessity for lockdown measures, and the motives behind official health advice on COVID-19, including in relation to vaccination.
Since it was first detected in China in December 2019, the coronavirus disease has infected nearly 5 million people globally, killing over 315,000.
However, Pastor Oyakhilome in a series of broadcasts in April said the outbreak of the disease was a sinister plot by shadowy figures to install 5G technology, which he said was the real cause of infection, around the world.
The 56-year-old also insinuated that the goal of spreading panic about the coronavirus across the world was to implement an evil scheme to vaccinate everyone against their wishes.
Loveworld was also cited for suggesting that hydroxychloroquine was a cure for the coronavirus disease without acknowledging that its effectiveness and safety as a treatment was clinically unproven, or making clear that it has potentially serious side effects.
"There is no ban on broadcasting controversial views which are different from, or which challenge, official authorities on public health information.
"However, given the unsubstantiated claims in both these programmes were not sufficiently put into context, they risked undermining viewers' trust in official health advice, with potentially serious consequences for public health," Ofcom said.
Ofcom said Loveworld did not adequately protect its viewers from the potentially harmful content in the news programme and the sermon, and the news reports were not duly accurate.
The agency directed the channel to broadcast its findings while it considers whether to impose any further sanctions.
Ofcom said Loveworld has expressed a readiness to broadcast a summary of its decisions, but that the channel has also pleaded against additional sanctions, noting that it would be unnecessary.
"The Ofcom Sanctions Panel will consider the matter further, following due process which provides for the Licensee to make written and oral representations to the Panel before reaching its decision," Ofcom said in its bulletin.
Loveworld is the third broadcaster in the UK to be sanctioned by Ofcom for broadcasting potentially harmful claims on coronavirus, after London Live, and Uckfield FM were both sanctioned last month.