ITV has been warned to take “greater care” after Dr Hilary Jones broadcast inaccurate vaccine statistics on morning show Lorraine, an Ofcom report has said.
The programme attracted 3,833 complaints from viewers over a discussion about the number of unvaccinated Covid-19 patients in hospital.
The part, on December 6 2021, saw great number Lorraine Kelly and resident medical expert Dr Hilary encourage viewers to accept the offer of a coronavirus vaccination.
Dr Hilary said: “Those people who haven’t been vaccinated, we’d really love you to think again and be vaccinated because 90% of people in hospital are unvaccinated right now with Covid.”
A clarification was broadcast on the show two days later, explaining the statistic related to patients in intensive care units instead of the proportion of unvaccinated Covid-19 patients in hospital.
On Monday, media watchdog Ofcom ruled it would not be launching a formal investigation, but has issued ITV with guidance.
In a statement, Ofcom said: “This programme incorrectly referenced the proportion of unvaccinated Covid-19 patients in hospital.
“We have told ITV that greater care should be taken by trusted medical experts when presenting facts and figures on public health issues.
“However, given official statistics and research have consistently shown that vaccination against Covid-19 offers greater protection against serious health consequences, we do not consider that the error was sufficient to materially mislead viewers on this main point of discussion.”
In the early days of the pandemic, Ofcom issued “guidance to ITV and its presenters” after Eamonn Holmes made headlines for appearing to defend a debunked conspiracy theory suggesting 5G could be responsible for the global pandemic live on This Morning.
His remarks in April 2020 faced immediate criticism from viewers and scientists, with Ofcom saying they would be assessing the matter “as a priority”.
An Ofcom rep said: “Broadcasters have editorial freedom to discuss and challenge the approach taken by public authorities to a serious public health crisis such as the coronavirus.
“However, discussions about unproven claims and theories which could undermine viewers’ trust in official public health information must be put fully into context to ensure viewers are protected. These responsibilities are especially important when current events – such as mobile phone masts in the UK being attacked – risk meaningful harm to the public.”
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