Evangelical Christian tv station Loveworld was fined £125,000 last month by Ofcom for broadcasting fake news about Coronavirus.
It was the second time the station had been hauled up by the regulator during the pandemic.
So what did Loveworld do? Carry on regardless seems to be the answer.
Last month’s ruling came after the station’s founder, Pastor Chris Oyakhilome of the Christ Embassy church, suggested that vaccines contained nanochips to control people as part of a “New World Order” conspiracy.
The same series of programmes, called Global Day of Prayer, included claims that the pandemic was caused by 5G technology, face masks posed health hazards and quarantine facilities were comparable to Nazi concentration camps.
Loveworld told Ofcom that it was “anxious to remedy any issues”, but since then two shows featuring presenters James Cordwell and Christian Kitoko spouted more alarmist and unfounded nonsense.
Cordwell claimed the vaccine “could either kill you or just give you an antibody reaction” depending on “what your body is made up of, what your character is, your spirit, your feeling.”
Later he said: “There’s more information comes out every day that older people are dying as a result of taking the shot.” He also claimed that a pregnant woman had a miscarriage within hours of being vaccinated.
Kitoko claimed: “The vaccine is not working at all.”
The station must now broadcast a summary of the Ofcom ruling that these were “materially misleading and potentially harmful statements”, while the regulator considers additional sanctions.
It ruled: “We were very concerned that broadcasting materially misleading claims about vaccines which exaggerate the evidence for and scale of risks of vaccination, could not only cause potential harm to individual viewers but also potentially contribute to wider societal harms.”
You can read the full adjudication here.
A Charity Commission report from November 2019 concluded that there had been “serious misconduct and/or mismanagement” at Christ Embassy. The Commission intended to remove two of the trustees, but they resigned before the process was completed.
The report shows particular concern over the potential conflict of interest caused by the fact that a trustee at Christ Embassy had also been the sole shareholder at Loveworld since its incorporation, and the charity poured significant funds – £1.2million over one two-year period – into Loveworld.
The Commission report concluded: “Following the appointment of a new Board of Trustees on 12 April 2016, significant progress has been made to address the governance and improve oversight and control.”
This latest scandal over the Loveworld suggests that it might be time for another look at the charitable status of Christ Embassy.
More generally, it’s worth asking whether promoting religion should, by itself, be grounds for allowing an organisation to become a registered charity, or whether some concrete evidence of doing some good in society should be shown.