A community radio station has been found in breach of Ofcom broadcast rules for parts of an interview which offered advice to parents.
Unity 101 aired an interview with Doctor Scott Whitaker who advised parents not to vaccinate their children.
In reviewing the single complaint, Ofcom had concerns about two sets of statements made by Scott Whitaker: advice to listeners in relation to the treatment of diabetes, and advice whether listeners should have their children vaccinated.
The interview was conducted by two presenters, a Unity 101 presenter and Arshad Sharif, Chair of the Muslim Council of Southampton. During the interview, Scott Whitaker gave his views on a range of subjects relating to diet and the food industry, including a critique of genetically modified and processed foods.
Ofcom said the apparent endorsement of Scott Whitaker’s advice by one of the co-presenters of this programme, Arshad Sharif, was likely to increase the likelihood of listeners taking it seriously.
“Listeners would have reasonably understood from what was said by Scott Whitaker and Arshad Sharif that all forms of diabetes could be cured solely by modifications to a person’s diet. Given that some listeners who heard this interview may have diabetes and may have been affected by the broadcast, Ofcom considered that this material had the potential to cause harm, and potentially very serious harm.”
Ofcom then considered whether Scott Whitaker’s comments about the vaccination of children had the potential to cause harm. These were made a few minutes after his comments about diabetes. Scott Whitaker stated his view to listeners that “You don’t want your children vaccinated”, adding that: “Once you vaccinate, you automatically set your child on a road of health problems that will eventually show its head 10 or 20 years down the line”. He labelled as “crazy” that the: “American Medical Association has now so-called ‘recommended’ or required that children before they get to six years old have over 49 shots”.
Ofcom reports: “There is an overwhelming body of evidence and conventional health advice that makes clear the importance of children receiving all relevant vaccinations during their development.”
Ofcom therefore considered that stating listeners should not have their children vaccinated had the potential to cause harm. The potential for harm in this case would have been increased by the fact that Scott Whitaker appeared to state what he believed to be the link between child vaccinations and various forms of disease.
In response, the station said: “We could have spoken further with Dr Whitaker to ascertain each topic he would discuss prior to beginning the interview”.
In relation to the comments made by one of the co-presenters, Arshad Sharif, the Licensee said that he “is not a trained Unity 101 presenter and, as such, is not familiar with the station’s extensive Code of Practice”.
The interview was ahead of a public event being held by the doctor the next day in Southampton.
Ofcom concluded: “While we welcomed the steps taken by the Licensee to improve compliance and training related to the Code, we noted that this case followed relatively soon after a previous breach of the Code. In that earlier case, Ofcom found the Licensee in breach for allowing a contributor to express unchallenged a view on a matter of political controversy. In this current case, the Licensee allowed Scott Whitaker to express unchallenged a viewpoint with the potential to cause harm.
“The protection of listeners from harm is a fundamental requirement of the Code. Ofcom is therefore putting the Licensee on notice that any future similar breach will be considered for the imposition of a statutory sanction.”