U.S. jury told HBO 'concocted' child labor report

Mon Apr 13, 2015 8:19pm EDT
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By Tom Brown

(Reuters) - A federal jury in Manhattan heard charges about fiction masquerading as fact on Monday, at the opening of a trial in which HBO faces libel claims over a report on child labor in India.

The trial is the culmination of years of litigation over the report on "Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel," which first aired in September 2008.

The report accused British sporting goods company Mitre Sports International of turning a blind eye to the use by contractors or subcontractors of underaged workers for the production of Mitre-branded soccer balls in India.

Mitre denies the charges and says it opposes child labor.

In his opening statements Lloyd Constantine, a lawyer for Mitre, said the evidence would show that children depicted in the report as stitching Mitre soccer balls for 5 cents per hour or less were induced to pretend on camera that they were child laborers.

"These poor kids are just characters," Constantine said, after jurors watched the 22-minute report.

Gumbel's Real Sports program "is supposed to report real news, not fiction," Constantine told the jury, as he went over segments of the report that he described as "concocted" or "flat-out lies."

"These scenes were all staged and HBO is very good at that. They make good movies," Constantine said.   Continued...

The logo for HBO,Home Box Office, the American premium cable television network, owned by Time Warner, is pictured during the HBO presentation at the Cable portion of the Television Critics Association Summer press tour in Beverly Hills, California August 1, 2012. REUTERS/Fred Prouser