CBC ordered to pay $1.7 million in damages over dishonest coverage

CBC ordered to pay $1.7 million in damages over dishonest coverage

Mark Slapinski

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) was ordered to pay almost $1.7 million in damages to a financial advisor after a Manitoba judge found that the crown corporation published articles that constituted “defamatory expression.” The judge ruled that CBC’s lawyers further defamed the financial advisor during court proceedings.

Kenneth Wayne Muzik, a former financial advisor based in Manitoba, may be $1.7 million richer after winning a hefty judgement in a defamation case.  Starting in June 2012, CBC broadcast two news stories and published several articles on its website that painted Muzik as a disreputable and dishonest financial advisor. The stories centered around a man named William Worthington, who said he felt cheated by Muzik. Worthington claimed he experienced “profound regret” after investing his retirement money into Muzik’s investment portfolio.

The claims published by CBC hurt Muzik’s reputation so badly he took the broadcaster to court for defamation. Muzik claimed he lost revenue due to lost clients. The judge ruled in Muzik’s favor, writing he was “satisfied” that the stories were defamatory and the CBC had “failed to establish it can escape liability through any possible defence available to it.”

The judge raised concerns about the objectivity and integrity of Gosia Sawicka, the journalist that authored the story. The judge wrote, “Ms. Sawicka moved aggressively to get the Worthingtons’ complaint about Mr. Muzik to air and gave short shrift to the paramountcy of objectivity, which she described as a key part of ethical journalism.”

Further, the judge stated:

“The investigation conducted by Ms. Sawicka fell below the journalistic standard that demands an objective and thorough investigation, by relying almost entirely on documentation provided by the Worthingtons and dismissing the conclusions of the MSC and NBF.

Another example of the glaring lack of objectivity in the First Broadcast was the refusal of Ms. Sawicka to comment on the lack of transparency of the Worthingtons in disclosing the full audio file from their secret recording of their conversation with Mr. Muzik. Further, when she later learned that the full audio file was apparently “lost” by the Worthingtons, neither Ms. Sawicka nor the CBC made any effort to inform the public about this significant development in the story which by any objective measure would throw the credibility of the Worthingtons in doubt.

The day after the First Broadcast, the CBC ran a second news story that featured another disgruntled client of Mr. Muzik. Ms. Sawicka admitted she never called Mr. Muzik or otherwise gave him notice that a second news story about him would be broadcast.”

In total, the judge awarded Muzik $1,659,403. This included $400,000 in aggravated damages due to the conduct of CBC’s lawyers. CBC tried to paint Muzik as a fraudster and thief, and were willing to sabotage his reputation as punishment for pursuing a defamation claim. The judge wrote:

“The strategy of the CBC to furiously beat the drum that churning occurred throughout the litigation process and then utterly fail to even mention it again following the opening statement and in closing argument is egregious conduct that showed reckless disregard for the truth.”

The judgement was released on Dec. 15, but it wasn’t reported by local media until Dec. 23. A Google search done at the time of writing returns only one news article about this case.

History of defamation judgements

Dr. Martin Meyers successfully sued CBC for defamation

CBC has a record of being sued successfully for defamation.

In the year 2000, a judge awarded cardiologist Dr. Frans Leenen close to $950,000, after he successfully sued the CBC for damages related to defamation.

In the same year another doctor, Martin Meyers, claimed in court the CBC used his words out of context, and made innuendo that damaged his reputation and his career. The judge agreed with his claim and he was awarded $200,000.

CBC is currently being sued by Subway for defamation in regards to allegations it made inaccurate claims about the composition of its chicken sandwiches. Subway is seeking $210 million in damages.

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