UK media outlets told not to promote baseless 5G coronavirus theories

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British broadcasters are being warned that they face sanctions from the media regulator if they give airtime to false health advice about coronavirus, after a Sussex radio station was given a severe warning for broadcasting baseless conspiracy theories that the pandemic is linked to the rollout of 5G phone networks.

Members of the public complained after hearing a broadcast on the community radio station Uckfield FM, in which a woman introduced as a “registered nurse” claimed, without any evidence, that the rollout of 5G phone technology in Wuhan was connected to the outbreak and that the virus had been created in a lab.

It later emerged that she was a practitioner of alternative medicines, while the media regulator said it was “not aware of any reputable scientific evidence to corroborate such a contentious claim which runs contrary to all official advice, both in the UK and internationally, about coronavirus.”

Ofcom confirmed it was 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” during the crisis.

Baseless suggestions that coronavirus is linked to 5G have spread widely in recent weeks on WhatsApp, Facebook groups, and on the fast-growing community website NextDoor – all of which have the ability to reach vastly more people than a small community radio station in Sussex but are much less regulated.

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.