Telecommunications

Eamonn Holmes responds to complaints over handling of Covid-19 5G claims

This Morning’s Eamonn Holmes has said he does not believe in conspiracy theories linking the roll-out of 5G mobile phone networks to coronavirus, while still insisting that “many people are rightly concerned and are looking for answers”.

Media regulator Ofcom is investigating the ITV daytime show as a priority following hundreds of complaints that Holmes appeared to suggest people should not rush to dismiss a potential link between the pandemic and new technology. NHS officials have repeatedly made clear there is no connection, in line with global scientific consensus.

Monday’s edition of This Morning featured a segment in which reporter Alice Beer dismissed baseless claims that 5G is linked to coronavirus, which have been connected to a large number of attacks on phone masts, as false and “incredibly stupid”.

In response Holmes told her: “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 don’t know it’s not true. No one should attack or damage or do anything like that, but it’s very easy to say it is not true because it suits the state narrative. That’s all I would say, as someone with an inquiring mind.”

After Ofcom said it was assessing 419 viewer complaints, Holmes used his appearance on Tuesday morning’s edition of the programme to claim he had been “misinterpreted”.

Addressing viewers directly, following a discussion on whether he slurps tea in an annoying manner, Holmes said: “Both Alice Beer and I agreed in a discussion on this very programme on fake news that it’s not true and there is no connection between the present national health emergency and 5G, and to suggest otherwise would be wrong and indeed it could be dangerous.

“Every theory relating to such a connection has been proven to be false and we would like to emphasise that. However many people are rightly concerned and are looking for answers and that’s simply what I was trying to do, to impart yesterday.

“But for the avoidance of any doubt I want to make it completely clear there’s no scientific evidence to substantiate any of those 5G theories. I hope that clears that up.”

The speed with which false 5G theories have gone from the fringes of the internet to mainstream discourse has shocked the mobile industry and government, while also proving to be a challenge for outlets reporting on them. Fact-checking groups have long found it difficult to convince audiences that there is no smoke without fire.

Ofcom, which regulates TV and radio stations, has already issued a warning to a Sussex community radio station over 5G conspiracy theories and is also investigating local station London Live after it broadcast an interview with conspiracist David Icke.

However, the audiences for these broadcasts have been dwarfed by the millions of people watching unregulated broadcasts on YouTube or receiving unverified claims on social networks or messaging services such as WhatsApp.