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Ofcom taken to a judicial review

A high court hearing has decided that former TalkSport presenter Jon Gaunt has an “arguable” case against Ofcom, for breaching his right to freedom of expression under the Human Rights Act.

Last year, the regulator ruled that Gaunt had fell foul of the Ofcom broadcasting code during a 2008 interview with Michael Stark, the head of childrens services at Redbridge Council.

In the live heated debate, Gaunt branded Stark as a “Nazi”, a “health Nazi” and an “ignorant pig” over plans to ban smokers from fostering children. Ofcom received 53 complaints and Talksport fired the presenter ten days after the interview.

After two-and-a-half hours at the high court, Mr Justice Stadlen decided that the case was worthy of taking forward to be heard fully at a two-day judicial review.

Now a presenter at internet station SunTalk, Gaunt blasted Ofcom as an unnecessary regulator after the hearing, saying: "We don't need Ofcom, we have got an off switch. We have an draconian, unelected, expensive to run quango of do-gooders who can stand there and say 'this is good taste and decency'. We don't need them.”

Ofcom’s representative in court, David Anderson QC, believed it was inappropriate to invoke the human rights act in this case, as the programme degenerated to a point where it wasn’t an interview and more of a succession of bad tempered insults.

A spokesman for the regulator said “Ofcom's role is to decide whether a particular broadcast is in breach of generally accepted standards in the Broadcasting Code. In this particular broadcast, Ofcom decided that Jon Gaunt went too far with offensive language and a bullying style.”

Gaunt’s barrister, Gavin Millar QC, said the presenter's choice of language didn’t merit censure by Ofcom. He said: "In the 21st century, in a heated debate with a politician, to call them an ignorant pig is not the stuff of an intervention by a regulator. It's not offensive material of the sort."

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