The High Court has ruled that Ofcom was right to find an interview conducted by radio presenter Jon Gaunt in breach of the Broadcasting Code. The case centred on an interview Gaunt conducted live on TalkSport on 7 November 2008 with an invited guest, local councillor Michael Stark. The High Court described the interview as a “rant” and added it was both “offensive and abusive”.
In the judgment it handed down, the Court dismissed both Jon Gaunt and Liberty’s claims that Ofcom’s decision was an unlawful interference in the radio presenter’s freedom of expression.
“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,” the ruling said.
During the interview – on the subject of foster carers and passive smoking – Mr Gaunt took an aggressive and hectoring tone with Mr Stark, calling him a “Nazi” and an “ignorant pig”.
After the broadcast Talksport recognised the interview was “offensive” and said that the manner in which the interview was conducted was “indefensible”. On the same afternoon as that broadcast, Talksport suspended Mr Gaunt. Talksport terminated his contract on 17 November 2008.
Ofcom received 53 complaints about the interview, with complainants describing the tone of the interview was “oppressive”, “intimidating” and felt the interviewer was “shouting like a playground bully”.
“We were perfectly happy for this case to be taken to Court to review the way in which we interpret our statutory duties,” said Ed Richards, Ofcom’s chief executive.
“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 judgement in what was a difficult case.”