Jon Gaunt loses court challenge over 'Nazi' jibe

A radio presenter who called a councillor a "Nazi" live on air today lost his legal challenge to Ofcom's decision to uphold complaints against him.

Jon Gaunt, who made the comments on his daily Talksport radio show in November 2008, said the media watchdog's stance was an unlawful interference with his freedom of expression.

His heated interview with Councillor Michael 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 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 the chance of finding a foster home would be lost under the new policy.

Gaunt claimed that Ofcom's June 2009 finding that the interview contained material which might cause offence which was not justified by its context was incompatible with Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

But Sir Anthony May and Mr Justice Blair dismissed his judicial review proceedings at London's High Court.

Sir Anthony said Ofcom was justified in its conclusion.

"The broadcast was undoubtedly highly offensive to Mr Stark and was well capable of offending the broadcast audience.

"The essential point is that the offensive and abusive nature of the broadcast was gratuitous, having no factual content or justification."

Gaunt was refused permission to appeal although he can renew his application directly to the Court of Appeal.

Ofcom welcomed the court's ruling that it was right to find the interview was in breach of the Broadcasting Code.

Listeners had complained that the tone of the interview was "oppressive" and "intimidating" and they felt Mr Gaunt - who was suspended by Talksport that afternoon and later had his contract terminated - was "shouting like a playground bully".

Following Ofcom's investigation, it imposed no sanction on either Talksport or Mr Gaunt.

Ed Richards, Ofcom's chief executive, said: "We were perfectly happy for this case to be taken to court to review the way in which we interpret our statutory duties.

"We are very pleased that the High Court has recognised that we came to the right decision in this case. This is a thorough endorsement of our judgment in what was a difficult case.

"Parliament has given Ofcom the duty of applying generally accepted standards to television and radio services, which we always aim to do in a way that respects the important principles of freedom of expression whilst at the same time protecting audiences from unjustified offensive and harmful material."

Mr Gaunt and his lawyers said they intended to challenge the ruling which, if allowed to stand, might have "a chilling effect on robust political interviews".

Corinna Ferguson, legal officer at human rights group Liberty, which intervened in the case because of its wider importance to free speech, said there was a great deal to welcome in the judgment.

"Ofcom should reflect on the close scrutiny it will face from now on.

"The Human Rights Act protects 'shock jocks' as much as flagship political commentators and free speech is no more worthy with extra syllables.

"However, we are not convinced that the court has fully applied its own logic and hope that this can be improved upon in the Court of Appeal."









In their ruling, the judges said that the interview as a whole could fairly be described as a "rant".

Sir Anthony said that its subject was political and controversial and Mr Stark was an elected politician who would expect to receive and tolerate a rough ride.



The expressions complained of were not essentially statements of fact, but expressions of value or opinion.



It was therefore an interview where Mr Gaunt's freedom of expression should be accorded a high degree of protection and that was capable of extending to offensive expression.



"His freedom of expression may not however extend to gratuitous offensive insult or abuse, nor, we think, to repeated abusive shouting which serves to express no real content."



He said that to call someone a "Nazi" was capable of being highly insulting.



It might be that its first use during the interview after a reasonably controlled introductory dialogue had some contextual content and justification.



Offensive though it was, it might be seen as an "emphatic and pejorative assertion" that Mr Stark was, in the matter of smoking and fostering children, one who imposed his views on others.



But, as the tone degenerated, Mr Gaunt's subsequent uses of the word assumed the nature of "undirected abuse".



The judges accepted Ofcom's submission that its finding constituted no material interference with Mr Gaunt's freedom of expression at all.



"An inhibition from broadcasting shouted abuse which expresses no content does not inhibit, and should not deter, heated and even offensive dialogue which retains a degree of relevant content."

News
The surrealist comedian at the Q Awards in 2010
people
Life and Style
Six of the 76 Goats' cheese samples contained a significant amount of sheep's cheese
food + drink
News
Russell Brand arriving for the book launch in East London
peopleRussell Brand cancels his book launch debate due to concerns about the make-up of the panel
Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to US
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidates on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
News
New look: Zellweger at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday

Actress sees off speculation about her face in an amazing way

News

Florida mother launched a petition to ban the sale of the dolls

Arts and Entertainment
film

Marvel has released first teaser trailer week early after it leaked online

Extras
indybest
Life and Style
CHARGE BOOSTER: Aeroplane mode doesn't sound very exciting, but it can be a (phone) hacker's friend. Turning on the option while charging your mobile will increase the speed at which your phone battery charges
techNew book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone
Sport
Christiano Ronaldo enjoys his opening goal
champions leagueLiverpool 0 Real Madrid 3: Ronaldo and Benzema run Reds ragged to avenge thrashing from their last visit to Anfield
Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Nicholas Serota has been a feature in the Power 100 top ten since its 2002 launch
art
News
Call me Superman: one of many unusual names chosen by Chinese students
newsChinese state TV offers advice for citizens picking a Western moniker
News
Wilko Johnson is currently on his farewell tour
people
News
Let’s pretend: KidZania in Tokyo
educationKidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day
News
i100
Voices
'Irritatingly Disneyfied': fashion vlogger Zoella
voicesVicky Chandler: Zoella shows us that feminism can come in all forms
Life and Style
health
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

Head of Finance - Media

£80000 - £90000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: Working for an International Mul...

Head of Finance - Media

£80000 - £90000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: Working for an International Mul...

Business Development Manager

£25000 - £27000 per annum + Bonus: Sauce Recruitment: Within your role as Busi...

IT Graduate

£15 - 20k: Guru Careers: We are looking for an eager IT Graduate / Technology ...

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?