This article uses content and thematic analyses to examine how UK public service broadcasting (PSB) reported on the Covid-19 pandemic prior to the first lockdown on March 23, 2020. This was a period when the British government's response to the pandemic was being heavily criticised by the World Health Organisation and other parts of the scientific community. This paper finds that in PSB these criticisms were muted and partially given. Instead, broadcasting explained in detail—and directly endorsed—government policy, including the ‘herd immunity’ approach. Most coverage of international responses focused on the United States and Europe with little attention paid to states that had successfully suppressed the virus. When such states were featured their public health measures were not explained nor compared to the UK's strategy with the consequence that PSB was unable to alert the public to measures that could have contained the virus and saved lives. These patterns in PSB coverage can be explained by the close links between key lobby journalists and the government's communication machine as well as the broader political and social contexts surrounding broadcasting at the onset of the pandemic.

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Philo, G. & Berry, M. 2023, '‘We need to start building up what's called herd immunity’: Scientific dissensus and public broadcasting in the Covid‐19 pandemic', British Journal of Sociology. https://doi.org/10.1111/1468-4446.13010

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Last updated: 01 April 2023
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