The broadcasting authority in London, Ofcom, has sanctioned Loveworld, a religious channel owned by Nigerian Pastor, Chris Oyakhilome, for airing conspiracy theories about COVID-19 that were unproven.
In a statement, Ofcom said that the station has been fined £125,000 (N65.6 million) for breaching the country’s broadcasting code by disseminating misinformation on COVID-19, Metro UK reports.
On December 1 2020, Loveworld aired a 29-hour programme called the Global Day of Prayer, during which claims were made about the coronavirus pandemic.
These claims included the notion that the outbreak was ‘planned’, that the ‘sinister’ vaccine can be used to implant ‘nanochips’ that can control and cause harm to members of the public and the debunked theory that the virus was somehow caused by 5G.
Investigation Ofcom revealed that the programme breached broadcasting rules by sharing ‘potentially harmful’ claims about COVID-19.
The statement read in part, “Today we have fined Loveworld £125,000 for this breach of the broadcasting code. This was the second time in a year that the broadcaster breached our rules on accuracy in news and harm in its coverage of the coronavirus.”
The station said it was unfortunate that the station could continue to spread such information despite previous warnings.
The statement further read, “Ofcom stresses that legitimate debate about the official response to the coronavirus pandemic is fundamental to holding public authorities to account during a global health crisis - particularly when public freedoms are curtailed and complex policy decisions are being taken.
“However, the inaccurate and potentially harmful claims made during this programme were unsupported by any factual evidence and went entirely without challenge. Ofcom was particularly concerned that this breach followed previous, similar breaches in 2020 during the investigation of which, Loveworld Limited gave Ofcom a number of assurances as to how it would improve its compliance procedures.”
This marks the second time in a year that Ofcom has ruled against Loveworld for making unsubstantiated statements about coronavirus.
Oyakhilome, who heads Christ Embassy church headquartered in Lagos, has in the last one year encouraged his members to ignore COVID-19 protocols.
He recently asked his members not to take COVID-19 vaccines.
In May 2020, Loveworld was sanctioned by Ofcom, “after a news programme and a live sermon included potentially harmful claims about causes of, and treatments for Covid-19”.
Pastor Oyakhilome has linked the virus to 5G networks and alleged that it was part of a plot to create a “new world order”.
Such views have been widely condemned by scientists, who say the idea of a connection between Covid-19 and 5G is “complete rubbish” and biologically impossible.
Ofcom said that the programme “Loveworld News included unsubstantiated claims that 5G was the cause of the pandemic, and that this was the subject of a ‘global cover-up'”.
Ofcom also criticised a sermon that was broadcast that questioned the motives of those looking for a vaccine.
The UK authority said that it was not against controversial views, but these had to be “put into context” and not undermine trust in the health authorities.
The hefty fine has since come into the equation after Ofcom concluded Loveworld’s breach of broadcasting guidelines were ‘serious, repeated and reckless’.