Eamonn Holmes criticises 'mainstream media' for 'slapping down' 5G coronavirus conspiracy theory

Eamonn Holmes' 5G conspiracy theory comments 'ill-judged' and risk undermining public's faith in science, warns Ofcom

Comments 'were also highly sensitive in view of the recent attacks on mobile phone masts in the UK', watchdog rules

Vincent Wood@wood_vincent
Tuesday 21 April 2020 00:41
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Eamon Holmes has been told his comments risked “undermining trust” in science and public health bodies by the broadcasting watchdog after the TV presenter passed comment on a conspiracy theory that claims coronavirus is spread by 5G telephone masts.

Appearing on ITV’s This Morning earlier this month, Holmes responded to mention of the debunked theory by saying “I totally agree with everything you are saying but what I don't accept is mainstream media immediately slapping that down as not true when they don't know it's not true.

In discussion with co-host Alice Beer, he added: "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. That's all I would say, as someone with an inquiring mind."

Now, broadcasting standards body Ofcom has said it has offered guidance to the presenter over his comments - arguing they "risked undermining viewers' trust in advice from public authorities and scientific evidence".

In a statement the body added Holmes’ "ill-judged" comments "were also highly sensitive in view of the recent attacks on mobile phone masts in the UK, caused by conspiracy theories linking 5G technology and the virus."

The conspiracy theory, which has been propagated on social media throughout the pandemic and is widely discredited, claims that 5G technology is responsible for the global pandemic that has claimed the lives of more than 160,000 people and infected nearly 2.5 million.

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".

Mr Holmes followed up on his comments the following day by denouncing the idea, saying there was "no scientific evidence to substantiate any 5G theories".

However, he did not apologise for the incident and said he had been "misinterpreted", in comments taken into account by the watchdog.

Eamonn Holmes responds to backlash over 5G coronavirus controversy

A spokeswoman for the body said: "Broadcasters have editorial freedom to discuss and challenge the approach taken by public authorities to a serious public health crisis such as the coronavirus.

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

An ITV spokeswoman said the broadcaster has "noted the guidance given by Ofcom".

Alongside the ruling the body announced it would sanction ESTV over a London Live interview with conspiracy theorist David Icke about the virus, saying it "risked causing significant harm to viewers".

ESTV "failed in its responsibility to ensure that viewers were adequately protected", the regulator added.

Ofcom will now 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".

A spokeswoman for London Live apologised for the incident, saying: "London Live respects Ofcom's decision in this case and apologises for any harm this may have caused."

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