Ofcom issues guidance to ITV over false claim on Lorraine

Ofcom issues guidance to ITV over false Covid-19 vaccination claim on Lorraine

Lorraine Kelly and Dr Hilary Jones talking on her show

Ofcom has issued guidance to ITV over a false claim made by a doctor about Covid-19 vaccination hospitalisations on daytime programme Lorraine.

The decision related to comments made by Dr Hillary Jones on the show on 6 December.

The broadcast regulator agreed with 3,833 complainants that Dr Jones was incorrect when he said that “90% of people in hospital are unvaccinated right now with Covid”.

As Full Fact wrote two days after the broadcast: “The true figure is more like 36% [at time of writing]. However there are signs that unvaccinated people are the majority in intensive care.”

The error was repeated by Kelly herself during the original broadcast and again by actor Martin Kemp on Lorraine the next day.

However, despite the error, Ofcom decided against a formal investigation, instead issuing “guidance to ITV” that “greater care should be taken by trusted medical experts when presenting facts and figures on public health issues”.

Ofcom said it took into account that a clarification was broadcast two days after the mistake, and that the mistake took place during live programming.

A spokesperson for the regulator said: “This programme incorrectly referenced the proportion of unvaccinated Covid-19 patients in hospital… However, given official statistics and research have consistently shown that vaccination against Covid-19 offers greater protection against serious health consequences, we do not consider that the error was sufficient to materially mislead viewers on this main point of discussion.”

Press Gazette has approached ITV and Dr Jones for comment.

Ofcom’s decision echoes another made in April 2020 over an episode of ITV’s This Morning, which it said “contained potentially harmful material” because host Eamonn Holmes – who has recently joined GB Newsdeclined to rule out a connection between Covid and 5G wireless technology.

Ofcom ultimately decided “that overall there was adequate protection for the audience. However Ofcom has issued guidance to ITV”.

Ofcom’s news consumption survey published last July found that television was the most trusted source of news about Covid-19 among the British public. ITV was ranked the second most-used news source (along with UTV, STV and ITV Wales) and third most-trusted TV source.

In the course of the pandemic several smaller broadcasters have received stricter treatment from Ofcom for publishing false information about Covid-19 — typically because that information explicitly promoted fringe views about the virus, its causes, and the vaccines that counter it.

In April 2020, for example, Ofcom sanctioned Evgeny Lebedev’s local TV channel London Live after it decided the broadcaster had “risked causing significant harm to viewers” by airing an interview with conspiracist David Icke.

The same month Ofcom rapped Sussex radio station Uckfield FM for a guest’s suggestion that 5G wireless technology had caused Wuhan’s Covid outbreak.

Loveworld UK, a Christian TV channel associated with the Nigerian megachurch Christ Embassy, received four sanctions from Ofcom between April 2020 and October 2021, cumulatively resulting in £150,000 worth of fines. The sanctions related to false claims by presenters and guests that, for example, vaccinations are being clandestinely used to inject the population with microchips.

Picture: ITV

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