Ofcom finds GB News COVID-19 coverage in breach of broadcasting code

Ofcom’s HQ

UK media regulator Ofcom has found the Mark Steyn programme, which aired on controversial right-wing news channel GB News on April 21, in breach of our broadcasting rules over its coverage of COVID-19 vaccination.

Ofcom said that broadcasters are free to  transmit programmes which may be considered controversial and challenging, or which question statistics or other evidence produced by governments or other official sources, but only if the ensure that audiences are not materially misled.

It said the Mark Steyn programme fell short of these standards by presenting a materially misleading interpretation of official data without sufficient challenge or counterweight, risking harm to viewers.

The programme incorrectly claimed that official UK Health Security Agency data provided definitive evidence of a causal link between receiving a third COVID-19 vaccination and higher infection, hospitalisation and death rates.

The watchdog said the way the data was presented to viewers during the programme did not take account of the significant differences in age or health of people in the vaccinated and unvaccinated groups studied.

Ofcom also highlighted the definitive way in which the misleading interpretation of the data was presented, and the absence of adequate counterweight or genuine challenge.

The programme also failed to reflect that the UKHSA reports made clear that the raw data contained within them should not be used to draw conclusions about the effectiveness of the vaccine.

Ofcom said that since the claims were broadcast as part of a factual programme on a news and current affairs service and may have resulted in viewers making important decisions about their own health, we concluded that the programme was potentially harmful and materially misleading, in breach of Rule 2.2 of the Broadcasting Code.

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