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Sat, 24 October 2020

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Culture Secretary slams TV station for promoting ‘lunatic conspiracy theories’ after David Icke coronavirus interview

Culture Secretary slams TV station for promoting ‘lunatic conspiracy theories’ after David Icke coronavirus interview

Conspiracist David Icke appeared on London Live discussing the coronavirus outbreak (PA)

3 min read

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden has called on the broadcast watchdog to take action against a TV station for allowing David Icke to promote “lunatic conspiracy theories” about the coronavirus pandemic.

London Live has come under fire for giving the former BBC presenter - who has claimed the world is run by giant shape-shifting lizards - a platform to air his controversial views.

Mr Icke, who was banned from Australia last year over accusations of anti-semitism, appeared on the capital’s TV station on Wednesday night, accusing Israel  of “using coronavirus to test its technology”.

He also claimed there is a link between the outbreak and the development of 5G technology.

Asked why such views were allowed to be broadcast during a national crisis, Mr Dowden told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "You are absolutely right these are lunatic conspiracy theories and no sensible person would give them a moment's thought.

"Clearly that station is regulated by Ofcom and I would be expecting Ofcom to take appropriate action.

"Clearly they're independent (Ofcom), but I will be in touch with them to understand what action they are taking in respect to that."

In response an Ofcom spokesman said: "We are assessing this programme as a priority."

And a statement from London Live said: "We are aware of the Culture Secretary's comments and have proactively contacted Ofcom to offer our cooperation and support as part of their assessment.

"We will continue to work closely with Ofcom throughout this process."

It comes after Mr Dowden held a meeting with senior figures from Facebook, Twitter and Google to discuss how social media companies could clamp down on fake news about Covid-19 shared on their platforms.

Earlier this week YouTube banned all conspiracy theory videos falsely linking coronavirus and 5G after a separate interview with Mr Icke.

He responded to reports of phone masts being set on fire by saying: "If 5G continues and reaches where they want to take it, human life as we know it is over... so people have to make a decision.”

And a community radio station was sanctioned by Ofcom last month after it broadcast conspiracy theories about coronavirus.

Uckfield FM was forced to apologise after a programme featured a guest presented to listeners as a health professional, but who made claims Covid-19 was linked to the rollout of 5G.

New research by Ofcom found almost half of adults came across false or misleading information online about coronavirus in the last week.

The regulator said the most common piece of fake news was the claim drinking more water can flush out the infection, followed by the suggestion gargling saltwater prevented the disease, both entirely without a factual basis.

It has led to the senior Tory MP Damian Collins, former chair of the Digital, Culture, Media And Sport committee, to call for it to become a specific offence to knowingly peddle misinformation related to the Covid-19 outbreak.

Earlier this week Downing Street hit out at Russian “disinformation” after a Moscow-backed news agency claimed Boris Johnson has been placed on a ventilator while he recovered from the virus.

They attacked what it called “false and misleading narratives” being peddled about the Prime Minister’s condition after he was admitted to hospital on Sunday night.

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Connecting Communities is an initiative aimed at empowering and strengthening community ties across the UK. Launched in partnership with The National Lottery, it aims to promote dialogue and support Parliamentarians working to nurture a more connected society.

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