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.
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.
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.