Both sides claiming victory in ‘radio taunts to fire chief’ row
Both sides are claiming that a ruling vindicates their stance after an Essex fire chief made three complaints about a Brentwood radio show featuring two Conservative councillors.
One of chief fire officer David Johnson’s objections to broadcast regulator Ofcom about Cllr Russell Quirk’s appearance on a radio show presented by Cllr Chris Hossack has been upheld.
But it ruled that the playing of a song by Jilted John with the lyrics “Gordon is a moron” did not amount to unfair treatment of deputy fire chief Gordon Hunter.
Phoenix FM said the song referred to former PM Gordon Brown rather than Mr Hunter. Ofcom ruled that listeners would have been unlikely to think it referred to the fire service boss.
Mr Johnson objected to three aspects of show featuring Cllr Quirk (Hutton North) in July.
Ofcom ruled that the show did breach its rules when the councillor, who has been made chairman of the council’s asset and infrastructure panel, referred to Mr Johnson’s private life.
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The programme, hosted by Cllr Hossack (Hutton East), discussed changes to staffing levels at Brentwood fire station and the expenses of fire chiefs.
Ofcom did not uphold the part of the complaint by Mr Johnson about what he alleged were distorted facts about the service.
Phoenix FM said it invited Mr Hunter to spreak on air but he declined the invitation.
The regulator also threw out Mr Johnson’s complaint about the show playing the “Gordon is a moron” song.
Mr Johnson had argued that it was meant as an insult to Mr Hunter, but the regulator said, while this may have been hurtful, it wouldn’t have affected listeners’ views on the debate that was taking place.
A spokesman for the fire service said: “In making offensive and wholly inaccurate comments about the personal life of a senior public executive, Cllr Quirk did nothing but to lower the status of his office as councillor, causing upset and offence.”
He added: “On the whole we are delighted that Mr Johnson has been vindicated in relation to complaints and hope that in future Cllr Quirk will act in a manner that befits an elected representative of the community.”
But Cllr Quirk pointed out that two of the three complaints were thrown out.
He vowed to continue to highlight allegedly improper fire service expenses, and added: “Complaining about me in breaching his so-called privacy is not a distraction that the public will, I’m sure, allow him to hide behind.”
Phoenix FM was given no sanction or penalty as a result of the Ofcom ruling.