Gaunt hits back at BBC's 'ridiculous decision to axe him

By Dominic Ponsford

Axed BBC radio presenter Jon Gaunt has slammed the BBC as
“ridiculous” after it sacked him for taking a job as a Sun
columnist.

Gaunt wrote his first weekly column for The Sun on Tuesday – taking over half the twice-weekly slot left by Richard Littlejohn.

Gaunt
was sacked because the BBC said a newspaper column would breach its
post-Hutton Report guidelines on impartiality which prevent current
affairs presenters writing newspaper columns. Gaunt said the guidelines
were not being applied fairly.

Vanessa Feltz, who took over
Gaunt’s old 9-12 phone-in show on BBC London, writes for the Daily
Express and the Star. And Sunday Sport editor Tony Livesey presents the
breakfast show on BBC Radio Lancashire.

Gaunt, who spent 12 years
at the BBC and uniquely won three Sony awards in 2001, said the idea
that BBC talkshow hosts could be “impartial” was a sham.

“I have
never, ever been impartial because as a talk show host, you can’t say
on the one hand there’s this and on the other hand there’s that – if
you do, you just end up like Simon Mayo. I don’t want to be anodyne
like that.”

Gaunt returned to his home town of Coventry as
breakfast show presenter after the BBC agreed to match the wage he had
been on at Radio London. After telling bosses he had been given the Sun
job, they asked him to stay on for the launch of BBC Coventry
andWarwickshire on 3 September.

He said the BBC’s decision to
sack him came from the top: “They are saying it was a local decision.
That is bullshit – the person who made the decision is deputy director
general Mark Byford.”

Gaunt was asked to carry on his phone-in
show until last Friday but was asked to leave on the Monday after
listeners became aware of the fact he was being sacked: “The public
found out and they started to ring in, phone and fax and say that they
thought the BBC again were betraying Coventry like they did 10 years
ago when they closed it down and merged it with Birmingham.

“Last
Monday, the pressure was too much, they said, and took me off the air
after the show. They said they didn’t think it would be fair for me or
the audience for this to dominate it. They didn’t want licence fee
payers daring to say what had happened.”

He added: “I’m delighted
to be at The Sun to throw off the shackles of the BBC’s ridiculous
rules and where I can express myself and where the readers can express
their reaction to me. I’m bitterly disappointed because I felt I could
do both. And I’m bitterly disappointed for licence fee payers in
Coventry who have been denied that. If is was a consistent policy, that
would be fine, but its not a consistent policy.”

● After a legal
dispute that threatened to go to court, The Sun has agreed that Richard
Littlejohn can leave to join the Daily Mail two months before the end
of his contract on 26 December.

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