Broadcast regulator Ofcom has launched an investigation into London Live, the TV channel of Evening Standard and Independent owner Evgeny Lebedev, for airing an interview with conspiracy theorist David Icke.
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden earlier called for Ofcom to take “appropriate action” over the programme, which has so far been the subject of 41 formal complaints.
An Ofcom spokesperson said: “We have assessed this programme, and we are concerned that it raises potential issues under our rules. We are now investigating it as a matter of urgency.”
Earlier this week Youtube deleted a live-streamed interview with Icke from the page of video talk show London Real, which is hosted by former banker Brian Rose.
It appeared to prompt a rule change from the tech giant, which has now banned all videos containing conspiracy theories linking 5G to the transmission of coronavirus – an association that has been dismissed by scientists.
London Live has emphasised that its broadcast was separate to this interview.
As the world is facing an unprecedented crisis, David Icke talks about his theory behind the pandemic, the lockdown and the economic crash.
London Real: Covid-19 Tonight at 10pm on #LondonLive @LondonrealTV@BrianBRose@DavidIcke pic.twitter.com/0WkGtdYl1X
— London Live (@LondonLive) April 8, 2020
Ofcom began “assessing this programme as a priority” this morning after the interview was shown on London Live between 10pm and 11.45pm last night.
The regulator is currently prioritising cases linked to coronavirus where broadcasts may have helped spread misinformation about the illness.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Dowden said: “These are lunatic conspiracy theories and no sensible person would give them a moment’s thought.
“Clearly that station is regulated by Ofcom and I would be expecting Ofcom to take appropriate action.
“Clearly they’re independent but I will be in touch with them to understand what action they are taking in respect of that.”
A spokesperson for London Live said: “Last evening at 10 pm, London Live broadcast a programme comprised of an interview with David Icke.
“We note that several commentators on social media have complained about our decision, however, we also note those complaints are about another interview with David Icke.
“We did not broadcast the interview which is the subject of the complaints on social media.
“Commentators are confusing the interview broadcast last night with an interview with David Icke which was removed from Youtube. The interview London Live did broadcast is still available on Youtube.
“We regret if we have given any rise to this confusion.”
Icke has been invited onto chatshows by broadcasters including the BBC and ITV in the past. The former footballer and sports commentator has previously claimed that the world is run by reptiles.
A Youtube spokesperson said the platform is seeking to reduce “the spread of harmful misinformation”.
They added: “We have clear policies that prohibit videos promoting medically unsubstantiated methods to prevent the coronavirus in place of seeking medical treatment, and we quickly remove videos violating these policies when flagged to us.
“Now any content that disputes the existence or transmission of Covid-19, as described by the World Health Organisation and local health authorities is in violation of Youtube policies.”
Additional reporting by PA.
Picture: London Live