Gareth Cliff's show fined R10,000 for spreading Covid-19 misinformation

05 November 2020 - 08:00
By Masego Seemela and eNCA have been fined R10,000 by the Broadcasting Complaints Commission of SA for an episode of Gareth Cliff's 'So What Now?'
Image: Via Gareth Cliff Instagram and eNCA have been fined R10,000 by the Broadcasting Complaints Commission of SA for an episode of Gareth Cliff's 'So What Now?'

Gareth Cliff and his show landed in hot water for spreading “dangerous misinformation” about Covid-19 and have been fined R10,000.

This is after an official ruling by the Broadcasting Complaints Commission of South Africa (BCCSA) that stated it had fined and eNCA R10k for airing an episode of Cliff’s show, So What Now? on July 22. The fine is to be paid by November 15 to the Registrar of the Broadcasting Complaints Commission of SA (BCCSA).

In the episode, Gareth interviewed conspiracy theorist David Icke, who claimed Covid-19 didn't exist. The conspiracy theorist claimed that the “concerns” about Covid-19 were a scam, and he described it as a hoax.

While neither of them quoted any scientific or medical evidence about why they believed Covid-19 didn't exist, Gareth and David continued to make several untrue claims about the virus, the commission said.

Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) complained to the BCCSA and said the broadcast was unlawful, harmful, and in breach of SA's broadcasting code.

In their documents, the MMA stated, “In the current context, as SA and the world grapple with the devastating effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, broadcasts of this nature that patently seek to spread disinformation should be carefully scrutinised, as they do not serve the public interest or further any meaningful engagement on the subject.”

MMA said eNCA as a news broadcaster has a responsibility to ensure the credibility and truthfulness of the content it broadcasts.

It also stated that eNCA airing Gareth's show featuring David was “intentionally disseminated disinformation based on facts that were untrue” and it “promoted unlawful conduct that was in violation of the regulations issued under the Disaster Management Act”.

The BCCSA tribunal found that comments made during the interview were not justifiable nor reasonable, claiming the misinformation spread could cause harm to South Africans.

“Media Monitoring Africa complained that the show breached the relevant broadcasting codes in a series of respects. Its complaint has now been upheld by the BCCSA, which has held that the show breached the codes.”

The BCCSA judgment further read that the codes were breached because the show contained views expressed which were not based on any facts truly stated or fairly indicated and referred to and thus exceeded the limits of freedom of expression.

It prepared an apology which must be read out on the first broadcast of the show in November.

The apology reads: “Both eNCA and do not agree with or support the views expressed by Mr Icke relating to the existence of Covid-19 which continues to be a pandemic affecting the citizens of SA.

“Both eNCA and apologise for the fact that it did not protect the people of South Africa from the potential harm and misinformation contained in the interview.”