On 18 May, 2020, Ofcom, the agency that regulates communication services in the UK, on their Twitter page, @Ofcom, and in their website, www.ofcom.org.uk, announced that it has sanctioned “Loveworld Limited”, that broadcasts “Loveworld”, a religious television channel, for breaking some broadcasting rules. According to Ofcom, “Loveworld News” reported that 5G is the cause of the present pandemic and that there is a conspiracy of “global cover-up”. “Loveworld News” also allegedly declared that the cure for COVID-19 is hydroxychloroquine, but it then failed to mention the drug’s side effects and the fact that it has not been clinically proven as the best drug for the disease.
Furthermore, Ofcom stated that a sermon that was broadcasted in “Your Loveworld” also linked 5G to the pandemic and went as far as undermining the need for the lockdown. The agency also alleged that this same sermon expressed suspicion towards advice given by health officials on the management of COVID-19 and insinuated that there is an ulterior motive behind these acclaimed health tips at the end of which is the administering of a vaccine.
As expected, the sanction of Loveworld Limited raised hell. The Twitter page of Ofcom became very busy on the day of the announcement with many Nigerians expressing their opinions on the matter. A lot of Nigerians saw the sanction as a way of fighting and gagging the spread of the Gospel. Some brought the matter home to Nigeria where, they alleged, churches were closed down in the name of lockdown while other religious houses were allowed to operate. In the midst of accusations and counter-accusations, nobody seems to realise that the reasons for which Loveworld Limited was sanctioned is non-religious. The matter borders around endangering public health and causing public unrest.
Whether Loveworld Limited is a victim here or not, the fact remains that if the allegations levied against it were true, the company has created a chain reaction that might lead to unnameable disasters. It should be noted, however, that this report given by Ofcom came from investigations. For that, the date the offences were allegedly committed and the individuals that committed them were not stipulated. But based on the findings of Ofcom, the implications of these broadcasts are analysed below.
Implications of Loveworld News and Your Loveworld Broadcasts
To analyse the possible effects of these broadcasts, the context, the “offender” and the contents of the broadcast have to be considered.
This may be the first reason why a hammer is dangling over the head of Loveworld Limited. If these broadcasts were made before or after the pandemic, maybe Ofcom would have overlooked it because their impact on the citizens will be less. But that wasn’t the case because the channel made the broadcasts at the peak of the pandemic, when fear, death, mourning and confusion are the order of the day. For that, the broadcasts can mislead so many people and therefore increase COVID-19 related fatalities.
As noted earlier, the individuals that made these controversial broadcasts were not mentioned. However, Loveworld Limited belongs to a religious organisation that is believed to have millions of followers. Apart from that, at this time of global crisis, people look up to religious organisations for succour and tranquillity. It is therefore unfair that these people’s psyche will be manipulated into accepting something that might become detrimental to them.
The contents of these reports will be further broken down into these three different subtopics: linking 5G to COVID-19, global cover-up conspiracy, and recommendation of hydroxychloroquine as COVID-19 cure.
- Linking 5G to COVID-19: The effect of this conspiracy theory can never be overemphasised. The first implicature of this assumption is that if 5G is truly the cause of the present pandemic, then everybody has the disease. This theory also insinuates that COVID-19 is not infectious because diseases caused by radiation are non-communicable. This postulation further implies that lockdown and social distancing are unnecessary and it questions the need for a vaccine. The effects of this statement include an increase in the spread of COVID-19, increase in its related fatalities, deeper economic and health crises, chaos and what have you.
- Global Cover-Up Conspiracy: Alleging that the present pandemic and lockdown is a “global cover-up” is a way of encouraging people to distrust their government and health officers. This statement alone can cause riots and chaos, especially when it is considered that the message came from a “man of God”, who is “wise”, is “filled with the Holy Spirit” and “obtains revelations from God” (please note that the words in quote are terms used by people to describe priests and pastors; no sarcasm is intended).
- Recommendation of Hydroxychloroquine as the Cure for COVID-19: The broadcast that recommended, or rather prescribed, this drug failed to realise that it was encouraging the dangerous act of self-medication. It also failed to realise that, apart from the fact that the safety of this drug for treating COVID-19 has not been clinically proven, it will not be suitable for everyone. The drugs’ side effects, according to RxList, include muscle weakness, twitching, uncontrolled movement, loss of balance or coordination, blurred vision, light sensitivity, seeing halos around lights, pale skin, easy bruising or bleeding, confusion, unusual thoughts or behaviours, or seizures (convulsion). In addition to some of these, WebMD listed slow heartbeat and heart failure as side effects of hydroxychloroquine. Imagine if people that were to report to the hospitals decided to self-medicate with this drug after listening to this broadcast and ended up with severe complications.
Bringing Them Together
If we bring together these claims by the broadcasts in Loveworld News and Your Loveworld and its logic, we may understand the underlying reasons why the sanction was raised. In a simple way, the claims of these broadcasts can be stated thus:
If 5G causes the present pandemic, then everybody has COVID-19 (hence no need for lockdown and social distancing).
If everybody has COVID-19, then everybody should go for treatment.
Since hydroxychloroquine is the cure for COVID-19, everybody should take the medicine.
You can imagine the outcome of this if agencies like Ofcom are not there to regulate broadcasts.