'5G linked to coronavirus' false claim causes Ofcom to issue severe warning to broadcasters

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UK broadcasters have been warned that they'll face sanctions from Ofcom if they give airtime to false health advice about coronavirus.

The warning comes after Sussex radio station gave a platform to someone pretending to a qualified health worker who shared conspiracy theories that the pandemic is linked to the rollout of 5G phone networks.

Members of the public complained after hearing a woman on community radio station Uckfield FM claimed that the rollout of 5G phone technology in Wuhan was connected to the outbreak and that the virus had been created in a lab.

Ofcom said it is actively monitoring television and radio stations that might be broadcasting potentially harmful views about the causes and origins of COVID-19 that have “the potential to undermine people’s trust in the advice of mainstream sources of information.”

It later emerged that the woman making the claim on Uckfield FM was a practitioner of alternative medicines.

The spread of baseless material on WhatsApp connecting 5G to coronavirus has now been covered in many mainstream news outlets, boosted by social media posts by celebrities such as the actor Woody Harrelson.

There has been no scientific evidence to suggest there are health risks associated with 5G and no link to coronavirus.

In the case of Uckfield FM, Ofcom reported that the guest also used her appearance to launch a lengthy attack on health professionals in the NHS dealing with the pandemic.

She said: “Just because you have this qualification, do not wear that like a crown of glory … The days are gone when you were a doctor and a nurse and everybody trusted you. Those days are well gone. Do your own research. Do not trust a qualification. I know many people who are very qualified who know very little. Because remember the people that own the establishments that teach us, it all travels back to the same thing. It’s all owned by big pharma. They own the medical elite and they determine what gets published.”

Ofcom ordered the station to broadcast an apology in a manner of regulator’s choosing.