Jon Gaunt to pursue 'ground breaking' case against OFCOM

Many moons ago, during the period when I worked night shifts in my unintended 2-year break from education, I used to fill my mornings with a spot of dog walking.

So, between the hours of say, 11:00 and 13:00 each day, I would listen to my portable DAB radio and have it tuned into my favourite station, TalkSPORT. Consequently, this would mean listening to a certain Jon Gaunt, a bit of a big mouth that engaged in 'fierce debates' about the issues of the day. 

In 2008, his trademark bully-boy style caught up with him during an interview with Tory Cllr Michael Stark of Redbridge council in a discussion about Stark's plan to ban smokers becoming foster parents. Gaunt had apparently crossed the line when he called Cllr Stark a 'Nazi', 'health Nazi' and an 'ignorant pig', live on-air. This, of course, attracted a number of complaints.  

TalkSPORT initially suspended Gaunt and despite issuing an on-air apology, the station eventually decided to P45 his arse.

With a bee firmly in his considerably large bonnet, Gaunty has decided to call for a judicial review into OFCOM's decision to uphold the complaints made against him on the grounds that, according to the Press Gazette, infringe his "fundamental right to free speech and to criticise a professional politician". This will be the first time a media personality has brought a direct legal action against OFCOM, citing Article 10 of the HRA which is the right of freedom of expression. The thing I find quite amusing is that Liberty director, Shami Chakrabarti, a woman he was often at loggerheads with, is on his side.

The thing I noticed straight away about Jon Gaunt when listening to him, was that he was permanently perched upon his soapbox, screaming his views over the radio waves and trying to convince himself and everybody else, that he was the 'one true voice' of the people. He has a very aggressive manor which is demonstrated when he spoke to Jounalism.co.uk, about his eventual legal pursuit of his former employers:

"I will pursue TalkSPORT; I will pursue them like a rabid dog"

I was pretty disappointed when he was taken off the air, love him or hate him, it was compelling listening. In the end I was purposely walking the dogs at times to make sure I would catch his show. But I hope he doesn't win his case. Forgive me if I am being overly sensitive, but there are a variety of four-letter words I would prefer be used to describe me than a 'Nazi'. I would also take issue with being called an 'ignorant pig' by anyone. Criticism is one thing and something that I agree would be a right worth fighting for, but abuse, however, is quite another.

 

UPDATE: He won permission for High Court challenge. (Not that is has anything to do with Twitter the T word)

Comments

A very good piece Rob. I particularly like your careful blend of the personal and the objective. It really works. But one question: what is the point of free speech if it does not encompass the right to cause offence? Sticks and stones will break my bones etc. Or, as Voltaire almost put it, I hate what you say, but I defend to the death your right to say it. 

By TimLuckhurst

You're not saying Ofcom impartiality/decency rules should be abandoned, are you, Tim? Or are you making a point about all the legislation around 'incitement' of various hatreds and political correctness in general?

By johnsaunders

The latter, John. I fear our laws confuse offence and harm in a way that is potentially dangerous for free expression. Defamation is a separate issue.

By TimLuckhurst

Thanks Tim.

I suppose he does have the right to  say it, yes. But I think there is a case for decency and courtesy. Maybe I am being a bit soft but the guy hasn't tried to put together a special task force to smack cigarettes out of the mouths of smokers. He is just, rightly or wrongly, trying to protect the health of children going into foster care.

 

 

By robhayes

Hi guys been watching your little debate... I would like to point out that Article 10 of the HRA says that although everyone has the freedom of expression, it also mentions that these freedoms carry with them "duties and responsibilities" such as the protection of the reputation and rights of others, including MPs. I think Jon Gaunt stepped outside of common decency and his professional role as a journalist and for this it was right for him to go.

For Tim, Voltaire also said: "In this country (England) it is thought well to kill an admiral from time to time to encourage the others..."

By Jason West

Hi guys been watching your little debate... I would like to point out that Article 10 of the HRA says that although everyone has the freedom of expression, it also mentions that these freedoms carry with them "duties and responsibilities" such as the protection of the reputation and rights of others, including MPs. I think Jon Gaunt stepped outside of common decency and his professional role as a journalist and for this it was right for him to go.

For Tim, Voltaire also said: "In this country (England) it is thought well to kill an admiral from time to time to encourage the others..."

By Jason West