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Gaunt and Liberty lose free speech case

13/07/10

The Divisional Court (May LJ and Blair J) today rejected a claim by Jon Gaunt - supported by Liberty - for judicial review of a finding by Ofcom that the radio station Talksport breached the Broadcasting Code, based on section 3(2)(e) Communications Act 2003, when it allowed a live interview by "shock jock" Jon Gaunt to degenerate into a slanging match.

Interviewing a Redbridge councillor about the council's controversial plans to ban smokers from becoming foster parents, Mr Gaunt (who had himself been in care) lost his temper and described the councillor on air as a "nazi" and "ignorant pig".  The court noted that the expression of value judgements in a political context was deserving of a high degree of protection, but considered on the basis of Strasbourg authority that this protection did not extend to gratuitous insult or abuse that was capable of being offensive to listeners.  The court noted, applying Lindon v France, that Mr Gaunt had abused his basic duty to abide by a minimum degree of moderation and propriety.

The judgment was here.

David Anderson QC was leading counsel for Ofcom.