Radio station sanctioned after guest blames coronavirus on China's 5G rollout

A pair of headphones resting on an audio mixer in a studio
Radio equipment

Ofcom has imposed a sanction on a regional radio station after a guest claimed that the coronavirus outbreak was linked to China's rollout of 5G technology.

Uckfield Community Radio, in Sussex, was found to have breached broadcasting rules on 28 February when one of its presenters failed to "sufficiently challenge" claims made by an interviewee about COVID-19.

As a result, the station must broadcast a summary of the regulator's findings to its listeners on a date to be confirmed.

The guest appeared on the Tony Williams morning show, introduced to listeners as a 'registered nurse', and made claims that the initial outbreak of the virus in Wuhan, China was linked to the rollout of 5G technology. The interviewee also made claims that people were being misled about the coronavirus – which Ofcom said "undermined trust" in the advice given out by relevant authorities.

The interview began with a short disclaimer from the guest, which even referenced Ofcom: "Everything that I give today is information, it is not intended to replace any advice given by your medical practitioner if you are sick always seek advice from your GP".

Ofcom received a number of complaints about the broadcast and its resulting investigation concluded that the station failed to protect listeners. The regulator said it had breached 'rule 2.1' of the Ofcom Broadcasting Code and due to the seriousness of the breach, it has directed the station to broadcast a statement of the findings on a date which will be confirmed later.

"Uckfield FM broadcast a discussion which contained potentially harmful claims about the coronavirus virus, including unfounded claims that the virus outbreak in Wuhan, China was linked to the roll out of 5G technology," Ofcom said in its ruling.

Uckfield FM has since apologised for any "confusion and concern" resulting from the broadcast and the unfounded link between the coronavirus and 5G.

Last week, US President Donald Trump was challenged by reporters who suggested his wording of the outbreak was racist when he referred to it as the "Chinese virus".

Bobby Hellard

Bobby Hellard is ITPro's Reviews Editor and has worked on CloudPro and ChannelPro since 2018. In his time at ITPro, Bobby has covered stories for all the major technology companies, such as Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook, and regularly attends industry-leading events such as AWS Re:Invent and Google Cloud Next.

Bobby mainly covers hardware reviews, but you will also recognize him as the face of many of our video reviews of laptops and smartphones.