Jon Gaunt, the former Talksport presenter sacked after calling a councillor a “Nazi” live on air, today attacked Ofcom’s decision to uphold complaints against him as an unlawful interference with his freedom of expression.
Gaunt, who made the comments on his daily radio show in November 2008, is challenging the media watchdog’s ruling at a High Court judicial review.
The heated interview saw Gaunt challenge Redbridge Councillor Michael Stark over a decision to ban smokers from becoming foster parents.
Stark defended the authority’s decision on the basis that the welfare of young children should outweigh the needs of foster families.
But Gaunt, who was in care as a child, accused him of being a “Nazi”, a “health Nazi” and an “ignorant pig”, arguing that children in care would be deprived of the chance of finding a foster home under the new policy.
Gaunt later apologised for what he had said to Stark however 53 complaints were lodged with Ofcom about his outburst.
Despite his apology the presenter, who now fronts the Sun newspaper’s online radio show, Sun Talk, was sacked by the station.
Gaunt claims the ruling made by Ofcom in June 2009 that the interview contained material which might cause offence was not justified by its context was incompatible with Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
His counsel, Gavin Millar QC, told Sir Anthony May and Justice Blair that radio had much less potential for offensive impact than television and the supposedly offensive words were value judgments not statements of fact.
He said the use of the word “Nazi” was not in a historical or ideological context but in its recognised slang meaning of a pejorative term for someone who imposed their views on others.
The words used fell into the category of classic political speech directed at the council’s policy and were not gratuitous, he added, and there was no profanity or indecency, no disrespect for religions, no morally or sexually offensive language, no swearing and nothing racially offensive.
Nor was there any discriminatory treatment of Stark – he was not attacked for being something but because of his views.
Ofcom, which is contesting the two-day case, has said: “Parliament gave Ofcom a duty to ensure that whilst standards in programmes are maintained, the right to freedom of expression is also protected.
“Ofcom regularly makes decisions under the Broadcasting Code that respect and balance these principles.
“In this case, Ofcom found Jon Gaunt’s interview to be a breach of generally accepted standards. We believe the breach finding was proportionate.”