How a secretive Ofcom team ‘off-aired’ the questioning of ‘official’ Covid-19 rules
Ofcom group within a group decided for themselves what you could see and hear
© Facts4EU.Org 2021
Small number of unnamed bureaucrats make Orwell’s Big Brother sound tame
Some 18 months after the Coronavirus hit our shores, we are beginning to see signs that the authorised Covid narratives are finally being questioned by our media.
In today’s Sunday Telegraph, for example, a scientist advising SAGE on ventilation requirements in supermarkets has openly ridiculed the wearing of face masks, describing them as no more than "comfort blankets" that do little to reduce the spread of Covid particles. (See below.) It will be interesting to see if Dr Axon is invited onto the BBC to discuss this.
In today’s Sunday edition of Facts4EU.Org we turn our High Definition cameras onto Ofcom, the independent Government agency that controls what we can all see and hear on our televisions and radios.
About Ofcom and Covid
Ofcom says: “We make sure viewers and listeners are protected from harmful or offensive material on TV, radio and on-demand.”
Since the arrival of Covid-19, Ofcom has given itself the task of controlling all Covid content and it immediately made it clear that only the official narrative was expected from broadcasters. It has produced a total of five Covid-specific bulletins, issued an unspecified number of letters to broadcasters, has conducted nine investigations of ‘harmful content’, and has imposed statutory sanctions on seven programmes.
Eamonn Holmes fell foul of Ofcom, as the regulator put down a strong marker early on
In a sign of the level of Covid control that would be exerted by Ofcom on broadcasters, the alarm bells will have gone off in newsrooms across the country when the respected broadcaster Eamonn Holmes was chastised by Ofcom for making what most people would consider a perfectly reasonable comment on ITV’s ‘This Morning’ programme.
On 13 April 2020, Eamonn Holmes briefly responded to comments from ITV’s Consumer Editor Alice Beer ridiculing what she described as fake news. He said:
“The only thing I would say, I totally agree with everything you are saying but what I don’t accept is mainstream media immediately slapping that down as not true when they do not know it’s not true.
No-one should attack or damage or do anything like that. But it is very easy to say it is not true because it suits the state narrative. That’s all I would say as someone with an enquiring mind.”
© Eric the Fish
Mr Holmes was forced to retract the following day, to head off an official sanction from Ofcom. Ofcom went ahead with its investigation anyway. Whilst it could not find that its rules had actually been broken, it criticised Mr Holmes anyway on 20 April, saying:
“We considered that his statement had the potential to cause harm because it could have undermined people’s trust in the views being expressed by the authorities on the Coronavirus and the advice of mainstream sources of public health information.”
On a personal level regarding Eamonn Holmes, Ofcom said:
“In Ofcom’s view, Eamonn Holmes’ intervention was therefore particularly ill-judged.”
Ofcom Assessment Decision, 20 Apr 2020
Ofcom’s Covid bulletins and the secret team that decides what you can watch
Ofcom has issued five Covid Bulletins in the last 18 months. The only Bulletin with any mention of actual Covid content is the first one, on 23 March 2020. All others reference the material available on the Ofcom website here.
- Coronavirus update to broadcast licensees (PDF, 217.9 KB), No.424, 12 Apr 2021
- Coronavirus further update (PDF, 208.0 KB), No.414, 09 Nov 2020
- Coronavirus further update (PDF, 309.0 KB), No.403, 26 May 2020
- Coronavirus further update (PDF, 239.9 KB), No.401, 27 Apr 2020
- Coronavirus (PDF, 198.6 KB), No.399, 23 Mar 2020
Ofcom’s control of content comes under what they call its Standards and Audience Protection (“SAP”) Team. The SAP Team sits within the Broadcasting and Online Content Group. In answer to a Freedom of Information request on 30 October 2020, Ofcom declined to say who is in the SAP team, nor did it give any indication of how many they are, and nor did it provide any information about the qualifications for getting this role.
Meanwhile in the print media, here are excerpts from the Telegraph article ridiculing face masks
Dr Colin Axon, who has advised the government on minimising the risk of cross-infection in supermarkets, accused medics of presenting a "cartoonish" view of how how tiny particles travel through the air. He warned some cloth masks have gaps which are invisible to the naked eye, but are 500,000 times the size of viral Covid particles.
"The small sizes are not easily understood but an imperfect analogy would be to imagine marbles fired at builders' scaffolding. Some might hit a pole and rebound, but obviously most will fly through,"
As told to The Telegraph. The full article is available here (paywalled).
For readers who missed it, Facts4EU.Org’s latest report about face masks is here.
Television – and to a lesser extent radio – still exerts a considerable influence over people’s lives. It remains, despite the Internet, most people’s primary source of news each day. It is therefore perhaps reasonable to say that some basic standards are desirable and that there should be some form of control to ensure the public can access good quality news programming.
This, however, is a very long way from what Ofcom has been doing, particularly since Covid appeared. It seems that Ofcom decided very early on that only the official, orthodox version of the Covid story should be broadcast. It underlined this in the high profile report it made on Eamonn Holmes, a respected and much-loved presenter and journalist. If that didn’t alert news executives not to go near anything questioning the Government and NHS orthodoxy, we would be very surprised.
In Mr Holmes’s case, all he did was to say that alternative views and reports should not be slapped down out of hand. Another way of putting this is that Eamonn Holmes simply re-stated the job of every journalist – to question and report.
Eamonn, there's no question that you were right and Ofcom was wrong
Sadly, Ofcom only seems to agree with the "no question" part. It does not agree with questioning the official narrative. Despite all the worthy and woolly words on its website about freedom of speech, Ofcom clearly does not believe in it.
Ofcom specifically cautions against broadcasting any words that “do not align with advice of the NHS or other public health authorities, and statements that seek to question or undermine the advice of public health bodies on the Coronavirus, or otherwise undermine people’s trust in the advice of mainstream sources of information about the disease.”
Ofcom brings to mind the late Henry Ford’s classic statement on his early car production models: “You can have any colour you want as long as it’s black”. Ford’s policy suited the earliest days of mass automotive production over a century ago. We suggest it is wholly inappropriate for the nuanced world of news reporting in the 21st Century.
For Ofcom - the statutory regulatory authority for broadcasting in the United Kingdom - to determine that only the official line on Covid should be followed and broadcast, and that effectively it should not be questioned, is a disgrace. The irony, of course, is that no broadcaster would run a report like the one above. They will be far too worried about upsetting their controllers at Ofcom's HQ at Southwark Bridge Road, London.
Is it right that a few unnamed bureaucrats effectively have their hands on your remote control? Please let us know in the comments section below, or send us an email.
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