Ofcom blasts ITV after Eamonn Holmes comments about 5G

Ofcom blasts ITV after Eamonn Holmes’ ‘ill-judged’ comments about 5G technology being responsible for coronavirus pandemic triggered 419 complaints from viewers

  • Ofcom has issued ‘guidance’ to ITV for Eamonn Holmes’ ‘ill-judge’ 5G comments
  • The ITV presenter made ‘highly sensitive’ statements on discredited conspiracy theories linking the spread of the coronavirus to 5G technology
  • Holmes later ‘clarified’ his comments but refused to apologise for them
  • Ofcom said ‘discussions of unproven claims must be put fully into context’ 
  • Learn more about how to help people impacted by COVID

Eamonn Holmes (pictured) has drawn fire over comments about 5G and the coronavirus  made on ITV’s This Morning

Ofcom has issued ‘guidance’ to ITV over ‘ill-judged’ comments made by Eamonn Holmes about the discredited theory linking coronavirus with 5G technology.

The media watchdog also imposed a sanction on ESTV over a London Live interview with conspiracy theorist David Icke about the deadly illness. 

Last week, Holmes drew criticism after he discussed the 5G conspiracy theory on air. Ofcom received 419 complaints after the April 13 comments.

Ofcom said the host of ITV’s This Morning ‘risked undermining viewers’ trust in advice from public authorities and scientific evidence’. It called his statements ‘highly sensitive in view of the recent attacks on mobile phone masts’ fuelled by 5G conspiracy theories.

The regulatory is currently prioritising cases involving the coronavirus, in an effort to tackle potential misinformation.  

Holmes disputed ‘mainstream media immediately slapping’ conspiracy theories down ‘when they don’t know it’s not true’ with co-presenter Alice Beer. 

‘No-one should attack or damage or do anything like that but it’s very easy to say it is not true because it suits the state narrative,’ he went on.

‘That’s all I would say, as someone with an inquiring mind.’

The next day, Holmes said he would like to ‘clarify’ his comments, adding that there is ‘no scientific evidence to substantiate any 5G theories’. However, he did not apologise for the incident and said he had been ‘misinterpreted’.

Ofcom said it had taken into account his statement, and had issued guidance. 

Holmes (pictured with wife and co-presenter Ruth Langsford, April 16, 2020) drew 419 complaints after making ‘ill-judged’ comments about 5G technology

A burned down mobile phone mast in London, fuelled by 5G conspiracy theories which purport the new technology has caused and is spreading the coronavirus (April 15, 2020)

A spokeswoman for he media watchdog argued that broadcasters ‘have editorial freedom to discuss and challenge the approach taken by public authorities to serious public health crisis such as the coronavirus’. 

‘However, discussions of unproven claims must be put fully into context,’ Ofcom went on, ‘especially at a time when mobile phone masts in the UK are being attacked, risking significant harm to the public.’

MailOnline has approached ITV for comment. 

The regulator also said that ESTV had ‘failed in its responsibility to ensure that viewers were adequately protected’ in its interview with Icke.

Ofcom said the London Live interview ‘risked causing significant harm to viewers’. It will consider whether to impose a further sanction and is ‘directing London Live to broadcast a summary of our findings on a date and form to be decided by Ofcom’.

During the interview, Icke shared his views on the causes of the coronavirus outbreak, adding that mandatory vaccination for it would be ‘fascism’. On Twitter, Icke then claimed that a video of him discussing the disease had been ‘banned’ from YouTube. 

His stunning comments drew fire from Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden, who described them on Radio 4’s Today programme as ‘lunatic conspiracy theories’. He revealed that he would contact Ofcom to find how it intended to respond to Icke’s claims.

The theory that 5G is linked to Covid-19 has been widely discredited by experts.

Brendan Wren, professor of microbial pathogenesis at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, previously said a connection between the technology and the virus would be ‘both a physical and biological impossibility’.

London Live told MailOnline: ‘London Live respects Ofcom’s decision in this case and apologises for any harm this may have caused.’ 

How does 5G work and what are the weird conspiracies surrounding it? 

One theory claims that the coronavirus originated in Wuhan because the city had been rolling out 5G. It then spread to other cities using 5G.

Other theories suggest that the radiation emitted by 5G masts lowers the immune system of people nearby.

One version of this theory suggests the radiation sucks the oxygen out of the atmosphere and disrupts the regular functioning of the human body. 

Scientists have described the claims as baseless and a biological ‘impossibility’.  Dr Michael Head, senior research fellow in global health at the University of Southampton, said: ‘Conspiracy theorists are a public health danger who once read a Facebook page. 

The World Health Organisation has branded the spread of disinformation about Covid-19 on social media platforms as an ‘infodemic’.

On 5G generally the World Health Organisation said: ‘A large number of studies have been performed over the last two decades to assess whether mobile phones pose a potential health risk. To date, no adverse health effects have been established as being caused by mobile phone use.’

Infrastructure expert Dr Paul Carter, CEO of Global Wireless Solutions says there is a marked difference between fourth and fifth generation mobile. 

‘Currently higher radio frequencies are being used by next-generation networks,’ he said. ‘There is generally greater bandwidth available in the higher frequency bands which lead to higher network speeds – but these signals won’t travel as far as lower frequency signals.

‘Therefore, to achieve the promise of ultrafast, super-reliable connectivity, there will be a need for a larger and more densely distributed arrangement of cell sites built in closer proximity to one another. 

‘However, current UK deployed frequency bands for 4G range from 800 MHz up to 2,600 MHz – current 5G frequency bands are in the 3,400 MHz range, so although higher, they are not dramatically higher.

‘As part of GWS’ ongoing testing and research, we’ve discovered that consumers have come to consider the performance of 4G as the new minimum technology standard – anything less causes frustration. 

‘It’s highly likely that the increased performance offered by 5G will very quickly follow suit as the new normal in the future.’

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