David Icke on London Live

The UK’s media watchdog has launched a formal investigation into a TV network’s broadcast of an interview with conspiracy theorist David Icke about coronavirus.

Ofcom acted after London Live screened the programme on Wednesday evening.

The regulator received more than 40 complaints following the broadcast.

It follows YouTube’s introduction of stricter misinformation rules after a later interview with Mr Icke by the same team was streamed on its platform.

“We have assessed this programme, and we are concerned that it raises potential issues under our rules,” said a spokesman for Ofcom.

“We are now investigating as a matter of urgency.”

It intends to speak to London Live as part of the probe, and said it was making the investigation “a priority”.

Ofcom is unable to intervene before a programme has been broadcast.

But afterwards, it has the power to demand on-air corrections and issue fines. It can even withdraw a TV station’s licence to broadcast, but seldom does so.

Earlier, the culture secretary had expressed concern about the matter on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme

“Clearly that station is regulated by Ofcom. And I would be expecting Ofcom to take appropriate action,” said Oliver Dowden.

“Clearly they are independent but I will be in touch with them to understand what action they are taking in respect to that.”

A spokeswoman for London Live: “We are aware of the culture secretary’s comments, and have proactively contacted Ofcom to offer our co-operation and support as part of their assessment.”

Last week, the watchdog sanctioned a community radio network for having broadcast a discussion that “contained potentially harmful views about coronavirus”.

“During the current pandemic, it’s important that potentially misleading information about the coronavirus is not broadcast on radio or TV,” Ofcom said at the time.

“This includes inaccurate claims about potential causes, symptoms, and treatments for the virus.”

London Live’s programme was produced by a London-based independent company that also offers training services.

Image caption London Live screened a warning notice several times during the programme

On Tuesday, YouTube deleted copies of a later interview with Mr Icke by the same host – which was embedded into the production company’s site and hosted on YouTube’s platform – and announced it would wipe any other videos that also falsely linked Covid-19 to 5G mobile networks.

The production company then reuploaded this interview to another US-based service – Vimeo – but it too deleted it.

“Vimeo is committed to eliminating content from our platform that spreads harmful health misinformation,” said a spokesman.

“Our policies explicitly reflect these values. After careful review from our Trust & Safety team, we can confirm that the video in question has been removed.”

It has since been uploaded again to Bitchute, a smaller UK-based platform.

Mr Icke does not mention 5G by name in the interview broadcast by London Live, although at one point he does refer to an “electro-magnetic technologically generated soup of radiation toxicity”, which he claims has damaged old people’s immune systems. Scientists have previously rubbished suggestions mobile networks cause such harm.

London Live is owned by the Russian businessman Evgeny Lebedev, who also owns the Evening Standard and Independent newspapers.

It screened a notice during advert breaks, saying the views expressed in the programme were “not necessarily those” of the network and displayed the address of the government’s Covid-19 website.