The Sunday Telegraph
Ofcom and Covid
SIR – We were concerned to read unfounded claims that Ofcom has attempted to “stifle” criticism of the Government’s Covid response (report, June 6). At the start of the pandemic – a time of misinformation and growing risk to the NHS – Ofcom advised broadcasters to take care when broadcasting unverified information about the virus. We said they should take care around statements that sought to undermine the advice of public health bodies or trust in mainstream sources of information.
But we also said explicitly that such content can be broadcast with appropriate protections. There were no threats to remove broadcasters’ licences, and we have certainly not advised against questioning the need for lockdowns and public restrictions. On the contrary, we believe restrictions to personal liberty have made the right to freedom of expression even more vital.
We take freedom of speech into account every time we consider a broadcasting complaint – and the numbers speak for themselves. The public raised complaints about more than 11,000 programmes in the last year. We formally investigated 48, and found only 29 in breach of our rules.
The claims also conflated our broadcast standards work with our research into consumers’ media understanding, another duty given to us by Parliament. Our research uses common categories of misinformation from Full Fact, a charity established on a cross-party basis. These categories are not used in our regulatory work, and they play no part in our broadcasting decisions.
Dame Melanie Dawes