Broadcaster Jon Gaunt, who called an interviewee a “Nazi” on air in a debate concerning a London council, has lost an appeal against a High Court ruling that media watchdog Ofcom was justified in upholding complaints against him.
Former Sun columnist 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 rejected his appeal against the High Court’s decision.
The Master of the Rolls, Lord Neuberger, heard the case with Lords Justices Toulson and Etherton.
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”.