By Tom Horton, PA
A UK Religious TV channel Loveworld has been fined £25,000 (€29,000) for broadcasting unsubstantiated conspiracy theories about Covid-19.
It is the third time the channel has been found to have breached the rules of broadcasting watchdog Ofcom this year and Loveworld was previously also fined £125,000 in March.
Ofcom is the UK's regulatory and competition authority for broadcasting in the country.
Loveworld’s latest fine relates to two episodes of current affairs programme Full Disclosure which were broadcast on February 11th and 12th.
During the shows presenters “made a number of unevidenced, materially misleading and potentially harmful statements about the coronavirus pandemic and vaccines”, according to Ofcom.
False claims made on the channel included that Covid vaccines makes you feel as ill as the actual illness and that there are serious side-effects and medical complications that can result from the jabs.
Trials have shown the vaccines to be safe and effective.
An Ofcom statement said: “Ofcom is clear that it is legitimate for broadcasters to discuss and scrutinise the Government’s public health response to the coronavirus pandemic – including the potential side-effects of vaccinations – and that it may be in the public interest to do so.
“However, Loveworld’s presentation of misleading claims without sufficient challenge or context risked causing serious potential harm to viewers, at a time when people were particularly likely to be seeking reliable information relating to the UK’s vaccination programme.”
Ofcom labelled the rule breaches “serious”.
A spokeswoman for the watchdog said: “Broadcasters have editorial freedom to debate the response to coronavirus – including the vaccination programme.
“However, unproven claims must be put into sufficient context, and our investigation found that these programmes contained harmful, unevidenced statements.
“We consider this a serious breach of our rules and have today sanctioned Loveworld by imposing a financial penalty of £25,000.”
Ofcom has previously said it is prioritising cases relating to coronavirus which could cause potential harm to viewers.
Loveworld is a religious television channel broadcast on satellite to a UK audience, from an Evangelical Christian denomination with a global network of churches.
The channel has been contacted for comment.