Ofcom has ruled that the heated on-air exchange that cost veteran speech radio presenter Jon Gaunt his job at TalkSport was in breach of the broadcasting code.
The regulator received 53 complaints about Gaunt’s interview with Michael Stark, a councillor in the east London borough of Redbridge.
Stark was grilled by the presenter last November about the council’s plans to introduce a no-smoking policy for foster parents.
During the interview, Gaunt referred to Stark as a “Nazi”, a “health Nazi” and “an ignorant pig”.
Some of the complainants described the exchange as an “unprovoked personal attack”, and said Gaunt was “shouting like a playground bully”.
Gaunt defended himself by saying the subject was emotive for him because he had been in care himself as a teenager.
TalkSport said it accepted that the language used by Gaunt was offensive and the presenter’s manner was “indefensible”.
It said producers had warned him three times before the programme to remain calm and allow Stark to put his views across.
TalkSport also said that Gaunt ignored “constant instructions by talkback and hand signals” to calm down.
“The interview fell way below the acceptable broadcasting standards that Talksport expects and demands as a radio station,” the station added.
Two brief on-air apologies were given in the hours that followed the interview – with a third broadcast a fortnight later. TalkSport suspended Gaunt and then terminated his contract.
In its ruling, Ofcom said it was concerned that instructions from the production staff were not obeyed.
“The overall tone of Jon Gaunt’s interviewing style on this occasion was extremely aggressive,” the regulator added.
“Ofcom considered the language used by Jon Gaunt, and the manner in which he treated Michael Stark, had the potential to cause offence to many listeners.”