Monday 3 December 2012

The Great Canadian Lawsuit

There once was a humble man in a humble city who had a humble radio show called THE GREAT CANADIAN TALK SHOW. The man's name was Marty.

One day Marty walked into the studio and found that his show was gone. Marty was sad.

And angry.

Mostly angry.

You see, Marty worked very hard on his show. He was very happy with the show, and he had big plans for the show. And then one day, some bad people took it away.


6 years ago, Marty Gold came to an agreement with 92.9 Kick FM station manager Rick Baverstock to host a radio show on Kick FM. The campus radio station needed to fill it's CRTC-mandated quota of talk content. Marty agreed to do that and to provide training for Red River College students, and in exchange he would be allowed to sell advertising to earn a living. It would also give Marty an outlet to speak out on community issues. This being a community radio station, it seemed like a perfect fit.

In the 3 1/2 years that the show ran, Marty built up enough of an advertising base to not only earn a living, but to contribute funds back to the station. Over those 3 1/2 years he also ruffled many feathers with his blunt and direct criticisms of the civic and provincial governments, and mainstream media outlets, most specifically the Winnipeg Free Press.

There were also several people on the Kick FM board who were not happy with Marty because he was actually selling advertising.You see, while the CRTC mandates that campus radio stations maintain community-run boards, Kick FM had industry execs on it's board. Some of the people controlling the station had an interest in the station not selling advertising because in theory that meant fewer potential advertisers for their own stations. This reluctance to sell advertising resulted in a $180,000 debt that resulted in (or was used as an excuse for -- depending who you talk to) the ultimate demise of the radio station.

Moreover, because Red River College depended on other media outlets to hire it's Creative Communications (Creecom) program grads to ensure it's success, the executives of the college had a vested interest in not pissing them off by competing with them for advertising. It's even been suggested that the power to the radio transmitter was deliberately dialed down to prevent the station from reaching across the city so that potential advertisers would be deterred.


The hammer finally came down and on November 8, 2010 Marty lost his show. Two years later he's fighting back with a law suit.

Who's being sued and why?

The defendants are
Red River College
Crecomm Radio Inc.
FP Canadian Newspapers Limited Partnership (The Winnipeg Free Press)
Margo Goodhand - former editor of the Winnipeg Free Press
Stephanie Forsyth - President of Red River College
Cathy Rushton - Vice-President of Red River College
Graham Thomson - Dean of Business at Red River College
Robert Buisson - Legal Council for Red River College
David Wiebe - Kick FM board member & VP of Golden West Radio
Chris Stevens - Kick FM board member & former VP/GM of CHUM radio

Red River College, along with employees Stephanie Forsyth, Cathy Rushton, Graham Thomson, and Robert Buisson, are being sued for wrongfully terminating his agreement with RRC.

David Wiebe and Chris Stevens are also being sued for helping to orchestrate the termination of the contract as directors of Creecom and Kick FM board members. The statement of claim asserts that both were motivated by personal gain, as executives of competing stations.

The Free Press and Margo Goodhand are being sued because emails that Margo sent to Stephanie Forsyth "maliciously induced" Forsyth to "wrongfully and maliciously" conspire with her RRC co-defendants to terminate the agreement with Marty. It should be noted that the termination occurred immediately after said emails. Emails like this and this.

According to the statement of claim, the "wrongful" and "malicious" acts include:
  • falsifying complaints about the defendant (Marty)
  • failing to follow the established and known complaint process
  • failing to consult with the board of directors, and lying about doing so
  • other various falsifications and lies.
The document also suggests that getting rid of The Great Canadian Talk Show opened the door for Chris Stevens, Margo Goodhand and the Winnipeg Free Press to start their own talk show in the same time slot. It also points out that shortly afterwards Margo Goodhand, the Winnipeg Free Press and Stephanie Forsyth partnered to create a program at the Winnipeg Free Press News Café to train community journalists, not unlike what TGCTS did, leading to a $400,000 grant.

How much is Marty suing for?

Marty will not tell me, but it's safe to assume it's in the six-figure range because Marty potentially lost $100,000 or more in advertising revenue in the ensuing two years, plus he's also asking for punitive damages and costs.

In suing for damages, Marty can argue that advertising revenues were on an upward trajectory. But there is more: Marty had intended to leverage his show's relative success locally to build a nationally syndicated radio show at college stations across the country. He had it planned out, but the untimely demise of his show scuttled those plans. This represents a loss of opportunity that Marty will present in his argument for damages. I do not know how successful this angle will be because it's hard to prove loss for something that you never had, but I'm not a lawyer so who knows...

Does he have a chance of winning?

One thing you should know about Marty: he's tenacious. If Margo and Stephanie thought he would cause a fuss and then go away they were mistaken. I doubt that a day has gone by since the termination that Marty hasn't vowed revenge for the wrong that was committed against him, and he may never let it go until he finds justice. Hello. My name is Marty Gold. You killed my talk show. Prepare to die.

Marty is also diligent. Some people with his passion might have launched a lawsuit immediately after getting terminated, but Mr. Boroditsky has taken his time. He's spent the last two years compiling evidence, filing FIPPAs, snooping for emails, building his case. He has accumulated a mountain of paperwork and thought through every angle. That is why the defendants have cause to worry. He is prepared.

He also has a decent lawyer. Gene Zazelenchuk is probably best known for representing Crystal Taman's husband Robert and her family in a law suit following a botched investigation into the accident that lead to Crystal's death. That law suit, which also involved multiple defendants, resulting in a $300,000 settlement for the family of Crystal Taman.

What will the Defense argue?

Well we can't say for sure, but you know they will argue that Marty Gold was exposing the Creecom students to poor journalistic practices.

"As far as we know he has no journalism training"
"If they're learning anything from Mr.Gold's show, it's that they can be relentlessly hostile and accusatory without evidence."

They'll say his defamatory rants escalated to the point where they had to take him off the air. What Gold calls "libel chill" -- Margo's references to consulting her lawyer about defamatory statements in her letters to Forsyth -- could be considered fair warning that the show has crossed the line. This may come down to a debate about whether Marty's show actually did cross the line. The defense may try to show that Marty did in fact defame the Free Press or its journalists.


What's next? The defendants have been contacted. Marty and his lawyer are now waiting for their responses.The time frame in which this may get resolved is uncertain but I expect most of this to play out over the course of 2013.

Marty mentioned that he may set up a dedicated web site related to the law suit and to help raise money for associated expenses. He already accepts donations on his regular TGCTS blog.

Whether you were a fan of Marty or not, this may be worth paying attention to. As this lawsuit proceeds some dirt involving some big names could get kicked up, and it may raise serious concerns about the leadership of Manitoba's premier community college. The Great Canadian Talk Show is gone, but this show is just beginning.


Scott MacNeil said...

Clearly this is a case where "The Show Must Go On" has been taken to an entirely different level. As you note, should the case proceed through the courts, it has the potential to get not only get messy but generate a lot of ink... hmm, I wonder who the Freep will task with covering events?

Anonymous said...

Potential to get messy and generate a lot of ink? I think not, perhaps small media blurb when and if the suit is filed, but I doubt if anyone who matters or is directly involved is overly concerned about it.

The old boys club will bury the suit in filings, motions, and every legal tactic available until Marty is either broke or too old to be bothered pursuing it.

All I see is much ado about nothing, and it has a long, long way to go until even the point where some do some calculating about how much or how big a bone needs to be thrown Marty's way to end it.

unclebob said...

@ anonymous - you are wrong. It is already filed.
You are also wrong about people being concerned. The one word in the lawsuit which should be more than concerning is "conspire"
Unlike some other places Manitoba law still on the books does not allow people to "conspire" to do damage.
That "conspire" word should be a huge whack in the side of the head with a very large, very frozen Red River catfish
This is not the only "conspire" case going on and it is not the only big name defendant.
You also may be quite wrong about talk of settlement. When you get people this angry, sometimes a real trial is the only thing that will satisfy.
Stay tuned.

Joey Smallwood said...

Pfft, much ado... You have so many facts wrong it's ridiculous. There is no WAY Marty could have generated that revenue, given the constraints on advertising minutes, and the VERY small reach of the station.

Marty just got too big for his britches, and stopped letting the facts intrude on a baseless rant. Embarrassing.

Rod Rouge said...

(Hmm... didn't the editor of the Freep just resign? Coincidence, being 'much ado' and all.)

Lost earnings at the station is one head. Damage to reputation worse, IMHO . Marty was building a reputation and a following, a dedicated listener base. That asset seems severely damaged by the manner in which he lost he show.

I hope they don't settle. This is an all-too-rare chance to glimpse inside a machine emitting strange smells and noises.

Marty Gold said...

So now a Red River College employee has gone public to try and discredit the lawsuit. Excellent.

I'd love to find out what "constraints" are being talked about, but given the commenters background in radio sales or expertise on the stations "reach" ie ZERO, I'll take satisfaction in knowing that the assertion other facts are "wrong" is based on the pro-College, anti-community, anti-free speech bias One would expect from a person drawing a paycheque signed by the defendants.

PS. My britches fit just fine.

unclebob said...

So Joey - it is interesting that your post does not dispute the claim - it only argues about the price

Broose said...

Joey Smallwood, as an outsider to KICK, you are of course incorrect in everything you said.

An email from Kathy Rushton to the RRC lawyer was short and to the point, "How can RRC legally remove all community programming from KICK?"

But you didn't know that, you don't know any of the facts, but that doesn't matter to you. Unlike your unfounded nattering, I can back up what I say.

My experience at RRC is the administration pro-actively sabotages students and instructors; students denied access to resources required to complete coursework, instructors forced to pass students who failed courses. Graham Thompson lied to my face and to me in email. Larry Partap locked students out the Foley Studio, but permitted instructors to use it for their own non-school commercial ventures. On more than one occasion, I personally was kicked out of an edit suite where I was working on a class assignment so an instructor could edit their TV Commercial. Marty was simply the first lamb to the slaughter.

I'm not a fan of Marty's on-air etiquette towards media colleagues, but he's bang on.

RRC will settle because too many students have too many stories that back Marty up.

I'm not defending Marty, I'm attacking RRC admin (not instructors) for their complete and utter lack of morals and ethics. If Step-On-Me weren't an NDP suckup, she wouldn't have her job.

Marty Gold said...

By the way, to clarify - Margo Goodhand in her email stated she had never listened to the radio show and was basing her smear attack on my published blog stories! She then implied that my blog and opinions therein had something to do with the radio station or the College ie libel chill.

cherenkov said...

Although your blog often mirrored what you talked about on the show, no?

She will have to explain why she made the accusations that she did I suppose.

Marty Gold said...

Imagine if you or Christian Cassidy was tossed off UMFM radio because U of M president David Barnard got a "complaint" about your blog posts.

And then UMFM lied about his involvement.

And then, only your show was affected by a "policy change" designed to silence your program about urban affair by the "executive committee", an invention created to cover up the interference of the College president in the station's programming and operations.

It is irrelevant if my radio show mirrored the blog. Goodhand did not reference anything that was ever broadcast, knowing that any legitimate complaint had to be put in writing to the station manager and subjected to the CBSC standards.

As she never listened to the show, it would have failed to pass even the most basic test of legitimacy.

cherenkov said...

As mentioned she'll presumably have to explain all of that at some point. I was only speculating about how she might have arrived at her conclusion.

Unknown said...

I'm not sure about Marty himself, but I noticed some of his partisans (particularly Graham Hnatiuk) seemed to be insinuating NDP involvement. What was that about?

unclebob said...

Mr Analyst - speculation is fun but now the serious legal process has started. On those kind of far reaching statments we should all give it some space to work itself out.

Broose said...

Margo was simply bitching about Marty for not saying nice things about her, just like the CMHR is whining about CBC's coverage of their scam. RRC admin and corporate radio wanted KICK gone. Margo and Marty were just the excuse to act. Forsythe's coziness with the NDP got her the job. From my research, her credentials didn't warrant an interview, let alone getting the job. She is hated at her previous school and referred to as El Presidente by RRC staff.

Why so quiet Joey? El Presidente got your tongue?

Riverman said...

In my best Flounder voice:

Boy is this ever going to be fun!

Beau Hajavitch said...

Fat Arse, where have you been? Just like everything previous, the Winnipeg Free Press will continue to ignore anything and everything concerning Marty Gold. Their reports on KICK's demise ignored him. I highly expect to not see one word about the trial or anything else regarding this issue in the Freep. Why? They won't tell anyone why. They could have done a puff-piece writeup on TGCTS' cancellation that didn't state the truth, but would at least state that it has been cancelled, similar to the KICK demise piece, but they didn't, they just ignored it. Both Margo and Bob Cox have said the Freep doesn't write about radio shows but they never say why. Certainly they reported when Peter Warren's CJOB Action Line ended. I am interested in how The Winnipeg Sun will cover it, along with broadcast media, i.e., television. I was happy, and a bit surprised, that the Sun reported on Marty's lawsuit, because my speculation in the past was that, although the Sun sympathized with his plight by letting him write columns for them, they wouldn't touch this issue either, because if any of the Sun reporters, editors, or other staffers did involve the paper in it, and one day one of them found himself looking for a job, the Freep wouldn't touch them. It looks like I might be wrong with that opinion, and happily so, should the Sun's coverage continue.

Beau Hajavitch said...

Oh, further to what I wrote above, what adds interest to any TV or radio coverage of the trial is how the coverage is affected, if it is, by any execs from the particular station doing the coverage in question being on the KICK-FM Board Of Directors. Or even the mysterious WWE-like "Executive Committee." Ideally, it's not. Would the station try and cover it without mentioning the whole thing about how the KICK board included mainstream media execs and KICK not competing with them for advertising? I don't know. TV news reports on CTV have to be 1:30 or 1:50, so that could work in their favor. Depends what specifically happened in the courtroom on a given day, I guess.

Tom said...

Marty will never give up. His pride will never allow it. Personally I hope he wins the lawsuit and gets the hell out of town, i'm tired of his whining. It's been how man years now, too many that I know.

Anonymous said...

you go Marty::
You know you are right when people who disagree with you can only bad mouth you, and not deel in facts.
Winnipeg has a history of always being nice to each other even when they are robbing you blind a history of never rock the boat. Look at city hall, they are robbing us blind and all we say is "all is nice". Wake up Winnipeg and smell the coffee, and the coffee is being made by people like Marty not kiss ass like CJOB or the Free Press.

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