UPDATE, 10AM PST: Ofcom has launched an urgent investigation into London Live’s David Icke interview. It has now received 41 complaints about the show. A spokesman said: “We have assessed this programme, and we are concerned that it raises potential issues under our rules. We are now investigating it as a matter of urgency.”
PREVIOUSLY, 2AM: Britain’s culture secretary Oliver Dowden has called on media regulator Ofcom to take action against local TV network London Live after it broadcast a 105-minute interview with coronavirus denier and notorious conspiracy theorist David Icke.
On Wednesday night, London Live — which is owned by the billionaire Evening Standard proprietor Evgeny Lebedev — broadcast London Real: COVID-19, which was an edited version of an interview Icke did with YouTube channel London Real in March on the coronavirus crisis.
During the exchange, a largely unchallenged Icke made baseless claims about the pandemic being part of a 30-year plot by technocrats to destroy the global economy and impose mass surveillance on society. He also described social distancing measures as “economic suicide” and downplayed the dangers of coronavirus, saying most healthy people can “slap it aside.”
Dowden was asked about the transmission on the BBC Radio 4 Today program on Thursday morning. He described Icke as a “lunatic” and said he expects measures to be taken, given that the London Live broadcast could break strict broadcasting standards in the UK on accuracy and balance.
Dowden said: “These are lunatic conspiracy theorists and no sensible person would give them a moment’s thought. That station is regulated by Ofcom and I would be expecting Ofcom to take appropriate action.”
Ofcom said it is assessing the program “as a priority” and has received 19 complaints about the interview. It warned British broadcasters last week that they will face sanctions, up to and including fines, if they spread misinformation about coronavirus. London is the epicenter of the outbreak in the UK, where 7,097 people have died of the disease.
Deadline approached London Live’s chief operating officer Tim Kirkman about the Icke interview on Wednesday evening, but he declined to comment. It is understood that London Live reviewed the show before it was aired and was happy that it met broadcasting standards.
London Live carried the following disclaimer ahead of London Real: COVID-19 broadcasting and during advertising breaks: “The views contained in this program are those of individuals articulating them and are not necessarily those of London Live. For advice on COVID-19 please visit gov.uk/coronavirus.”
A London Live spokeswoman 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.”
A separate London Real interview with Icke was taken down from YouTube this week after the conspiracy theorist went further in his attempts to discredit official advice on coronavirus. During this second interview, Icke claimed coronavirus “doesn’t exist,” spread baseless conspiracies linking the disease to 5G, and said a vaccine will contain microchips that can control humans.