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

London SE1

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