The judicial review hearing of Ofcom's decision to uphold complaints against the radio talk show host Jon Gaunt has begun in the High Court. Liberty, the human rights group, has intervened in the case because of its wider importance to free
Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Liberty, said: Too many people say – my speech is free but yours is more expensive. Love him or hate him, Jon Gaunt's case is a vital defence of everyone's political speech under Article 10 of
the Human Rights Act. None of us should take this freedom for granted.
Jon Gaunt said: British people have fought tooth and nail over the centuries since Magna Carta to defend and protect the right to free speech. Our forefathers fought the Nazis in the 20th century to protect such rights. It
would be painfully ironic if use of the word 'Nazi' were to defeat us when the real Nazis couldn't.
Martin Howe, Jon Gaunt's solicitor, said: A free press and media is an essential and fundamental ingredient of meaningful democracy. Broadcasters should be free to test our elected politicians on matters such as expenses,
front-line cuts, terror policies, the prosecution of wars etc. In Jon Gaunt's case he should be free to challenge a controversial childcare policy. Presenters in political debate should not be looking over their shoulder waiting for the Ofcom gag
to be slapped on. Tyranny triumphs when good men are silenced. Our democracy has more to fear from faceless bureaucrats thumbing their thesaurus than from the plain speaking polemic of Jon Gaunt.
Jon Gaunt was sacked from TALKsport on 19 November 2008, two weeks after he called a Redbridge Council representative a Nazi , a Health Nazi and an ignorant pig during an on-air discussion about the Council's ban on placing
vulnerable children with foster parents who smoke.
Nazi is now a recognised slang word rather than an historical insult, Jon Gaunt's lawyers told the high court today in the former TalkSport presenter's legal battle with media regulator Ofcom.
Gaunt is challenging, on freedom of speech grounds, Ofcom's decision to censure the station after he labelled a councillor a Nazi on air, an exchange which resulted in his sacking.
His lawyer, Gavin Millar QC, told the court that Ofcom had acted disproportionately by censuring TalkSport and impugning his client's professional reputation, in contravention of article 10 of the European convention on human rights.
He said that Gaunt had not used the word Nazi in an historical or ideological sense. There is now a recognised slang of the word Nazi [as] one who imposes their views on others.
Gaunt's legal team say that Ofcom's responsibility to enforce the broadcasting code, which commits it to upholding generally acceptable standards of behaviour, must be balanced against the right to free speech as enshrined in the convention.
Millar told the court that fundamental right could only be infringed when there is a pressing social need to do so.
He said that European law recognised that different standards apply to journalists carrying out their professional duties and to politicians who are being quizzed about policies they support or uphold. Journalists have a duty to disseminate
information to the public and the public have a right to hear it, he added.
Jon Gaunt labelled a guest on his TalkSport show a Nazi because it was his intention to offend , the high court was told today. David Anderson QC, who is acting for Ofcom, said Gaunt wanted the right to bully and insult a guest
on a radio. That is what he is saying he had a right to do .
Anderson said Gaunt's use of offensive language , including Nazi , health Nazi and ignorant pig was part of a bullying and hectoring approach which exceeded the expectations of the audience for his programme .
Anderson said: To call someone a Nazi is... slightly different to calling someone a health Nazi but in either case the intention was to offend .
The hearing has now ended and a ruling is expected by the end of next week.
The radio presenter Jon Gaunt who called a councillor a Nazi live on air has won the right to appeal a High Court decision which branded his interview offensive and abusive.
Gaunt launched the appeal after an earlier judicial review failed to overturn a decision made by Ofcom that he had breached the broadcasting code.
The broadcast regulator upheld complaints against Gaunt after he called Redbridge councillor Michael Stark a Nazi and an ignorant pig during an interview on his TalkSport radio show in November, 2008. Gaunt, who was in care as a
child, was angry as he felt that the chance of finding a foster home would be lost under the new policy.
Gaunt then sought a judicial review claiming the broadcast regulator unlawfully interfered with his freedom of expression. However, Sir Anthony May and Justice Blair dismissed his judicial review proceedings at London's High Court in July last
year saying that: the essential point is that the offensive and abusive nature of the broadcast was gratuitous, having no factual content or justification.
Lord Justice Thomas, granting permission to appeal, said Gaunt should be entitled to argue whether the High Court had followed the correct principles.
Jon Gaunt has lost his appeal against a high court ruling that media watchdog Ofcom was justified in upholding complaints about a TalkSport interview in which he called a local councillor a Nazi .
Gaunt appealed after last year losing a high court freedom of expression challenge against Ofcom's ruling that the interview breached its broadcasting code. However, three court of appeal judges have now rejected his appeal against the high
court's July 2010 decision.
Lord Neuberger said it was important to observe that the broadcasting code recognised that offensive material or language will often be justifiable, but justifiability must be assessed by reference to the context .
In summary, when one combines the extremely aggressive tone of the interview, the constant interruptions, the insults, the ranting, the consequent lack of any substantive content, and the time which the interview was allowed to run on, it
seems to me clear that Ofcom was right to conclude that there had been a breach of ... the code .
It had been suggested that Ofcom attached too much weight and too much offensiveness to the Nazi , health Nazi and ignorant pig insults levied at Stark. But Neuberger said: In my view, however, Ofcom quite correctly took
those insults into account, but only as a factor among others which, when taken together, rendered the interview in breach of ... the code.
An Ofcom spokesman said: The court of appeal agreed that the interview had an extremely aggressive tone combined with constant interruptions, was full of insults, ranting, and lacked any substantive content and that it was a breach of
generally accepted standards.