Eamonn Holmes and Ruth Langsford attend the ITV Gala at London Palladium on November 19, 2015 in London, England.
Stuart C. Wilson | Getty Images
Ofcom, the U.K.’s media regulator, is looking into a popular morning TV show after its presenter made comments about baseless conspiracy theories which link the coronavirus outbreak to 5G technology.
The watchdog said it received 419 complaints from viewers after TV presenter Eamonn Holmes said the media shouldn’t dismiss claims that 5G is spreading Covid-19 — despite the fact that such rumors have been widely debunked by scientists and public health authorities.
“What I don’t accept is mainstream media immediately slapping that down as not true when they don’t know it’s not true,” Holmes claimed Monday on the popular ITV breakfast show “This Morning.”
“It’s very easy to say it’s not true because it suits the state narrative. That’s all I would say as someone of the inquiring mind.”
A spokesperson for Ofcom told CNBC: “We are assessing this programme in full as a priority.”
ITV shares were down more than 7% Tuesday afternoon following Ofcom’s statement. Holmes sought to clarify his comments, which he said had been “misrepresented.”
“Every theory relating to such a connection has been proven to be false and we would like to emphasise that,” he told “This Morning” viewers.
“However, many people are rightly concerned and are looking for answers, and that’s simply what I was trying to impart yesterday but for the avoidance of any doubt I want to make it clear there’s no scientific evidence to substantiate any of those 5G theories.”
Holmes is not the first celebrity to have appeared to give credence to conspiracy theories about 5G and Covid-19, and ITV isn’t the first broadcaster to have aired such controversial comments.
Popular figures in the media from U.K. talent show judge Amanda Holden to U.S. actor Woody Harrelson have posted on social media claiming 5G can impact on people’s health. Meanwhile, London Live, a local TV channel in the U.K. capital, was hit with a formal probe from Ofcom after broadcasting an interview with conspiracy theorist David Icke about the pandemic.
Bogus conspiracy theories linking 5G mobile networks with Covid-19 appeared to inspire people to set fire to cell phone masts in the U.K. earlier this month. Last week, the World Health Organization updated its coronavirus myth-busting web page to tell people that 5G doesn’t spread Covid-19.
Ofcom recently sanctioned a local radio station after a guest claimed the coronavirus outbreak was linked to 5G. The regulator says it is now prioritizing complaints about health claims related to the virus, medical advice which may be incorrect and inaccurate or misleading content relating to the virus or to public policy on it.
Like previous cellular networks, 5G relies on signals carried out by radio waves, which are part of the electromagnetic spectrum. There have been fears that this radiation could result in health risks.
However, the radio waves used for mobile networks are non-ionizing, meaning they don’t have enough energy to remove electrons from atoms or molecules. According to scientific consensus, 5G is safe and will not harm humans.