Broadcaster Jon Gaunt loses complaints appeal

Broadcaster Jon Gaunt, who called an interviewee a "Nazi" on air, lost an appeal today against a High Court ruling that media watchdog Ofcom was justified in upholding complaints against him.









Gaunt's contract was terminated by TalkSport in November 2008, 10 days after an exchange with councillor Michael Stark.



During a hearing last month, the Court of Appeal was told that Gaunt's live interview with Mr Stark about Redbridge Council's decision to ban smokers from becoming foster parents - for which he later apologised - drew 53 complaints from listeners.



Mr Stark said the welfare of children should outweigh the needs of foster families but Gaunt, who was himself in care, accused the councillor of being a "Nazi", a "health Nazi" and an "ignorant pig".



Last summer, Gaunt challenged Ofcom's June 2009 finding that the interview failed to comply with the broadcasting code but the High Court backed Ofcom.



Three Court of Appeal judges today rejected his appeal against the High Court's decision.









Giving the ruling of the court, the Master of the Rolls, Lord Neuberger, said: "Freedom of expression - that is, the right to say what one wants and how one wants, and to impart and to receive information and ideas - is a fundamental human right.

"In the light of the power of language, ideas and information, freedom of expression underpins a free society."



Lord Neuberger, who heard the case with Lords Justices Toulson and Etherton, said freedom of expression had been described as "the lifeblood of democracy".



But he added: "However, like virtually all human rights, freedom of expression carries with it responsibilities which themselves reflect the power of words, whether spoken or written.



"Hence the need for some restrictions on freedom of expression..."



The need for some restrictions was recognised by Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, in which freedom of expression was now "enshrined".



As the "limited number" of circumstances for restriction identified in that Article recognised "any attempt to curtail freedom of expression must be approached with circumspection".



Ofcom's finding in relation to the Gaunt interview "was essentially based on the proposition that it caused significant and unnecessary offence".









Lord Neuberger said it was important to observe that the Broadcasting Code recognised that "offensive material or language will often be justifiable, but justifiability must be assessed by reference to the context".

He announced: "In summary, when one combines the extremely aggressive tone of the interview, the constant interruptions, the insults, the ranting, the consequent lack of any substantive content, and the time which the interview was allowed to run on, it seems to me clear that Ofcom was right to conclude that there had been a breach of... the Code."



It had been suggested that Ofcom attached too much weight and too much offensiveness to the "Nazi", "health Nazi" and "ignorant pig" insults levied at Mr Stark.



But Lord Neuberger said: "In my view, however, Ofcom quite correctly took those insults into account, but only as a factor among others which, when taken together, rendered the interview in breach of... the Code."



By the time Ofcom's finding was published, Gaunt had already been dismissed and there was no suggestion, said the judge, that "he has lost any particular work as a result of the finding".



He added: "His reputation as a very hard-hitting journalist may mean that the finding has done him no damage, but, if it has, it does not only appear to be hard to identify, but it would be an inevitable consequence of any system of controlling broadcasts.



"That point serves to underline the importance of anxiously scrutinising any curb on freedom of expression, but it goes no further than that, and anxious scrutiny is precisely what Ofcom gave the matter."



An Ofcom spokesman said later: "We are pleased that the Court of Appeal has agreed with Ofcom that Jon Gaunt's interview was a breach of the Broadcasting Code.



"The Court of Appeal agreed that the interview had an extremely aggressive tone combined with constant interruptions, was full of insults, ranting, and lacked any substantive content and that it was a breach of generally accepted standards.



"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."

News
people
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Hand out press photograph/film still from the movie Mad Max Fury Road (Downloaded from the Warner Bro's media site/Jasin Boland/© 2014 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.)
films'You have to try everything and it’s all a process of elimination, but ultimately you find your path'
Life and Style
food + drinkFrom Mediterranean Tomato Tart to Raw Caramel Peanut Pie
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Extras
Boys to men: there’s nothing wrong with traditional ‘manly’ things, until masculinity is used to exclude people
indybest13 best grooming essentials
Arts and Entertainment
Armstrong, left, and Bain's writing credits include Peep Show, Fresh Meat, and The Old Guys
TVThe pair have presented their view of 21st-century foibles in shows such as Peep Show and Fresh Meat
Arts and Entertainment
Keys to success: Andrew and Julian Lloyd Webber
arts + entsMrs Bach had too many kids to write the great man's music, says Julian Lloyd Webber
Life and Style
healthMovember isn't about a moustache trend, it saves lives
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter films
books

New essay by JK Rowling went live on Pottermore site on Friday

News
Russia Today’s new UK channel began broadcasting yesterday. Discussions so far have included why Britons see Russia as ‘the bad guy’
news

New UK station Russia Today gives a very bizarre view of Britain

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch at the premiere of The Imitation Game at the BFI London Film Festival
filmsKeira Knightley tried to miss The Imitation Game premiere to watch Bake Off
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £45000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Key featuresA highly motivated ...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £30000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Do you feel your sales role is l...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £100,000: SThree: If you would like to work fo...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Uncapped Commission £100k +: SThree: Trainee Recru...

Day In a Page

Bryan Adams' heartstopping images of wounded British soldiers to go on show at Somerset House

Bryan Adams' images of wounded soldiers

Taken over the course of four years, Adams' portraits are an astonishing document of the aftermath of war
The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities