HBO tells jury it was 'generous' to British firm suing for libel

Tue Apr 14, 2015 7:08pm EDT
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By Tom Brown

(Reuters) - HBO on Tuesday sought to turn the tables on the British sporting goods company suing it for libel over a report about child labor in India, telling a federal jury in Manhattan the claims against it were baseless.

The trial, which opened Monday, follows 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 contractors or subcontractors who allegedly used underaged workers to produce Mitre-branded soccer balls in India.

Mitre denies the claims and says it opposes child labor.

In his opening statements, HBO's lawyer Dane Butswinkas acknowledged that the report may not have been "perfect." But he said it took two years and "careful detective work and follow-up" to produce the 21-minute report.

"The report was responsible, if not generous to Mitre," Butswinkas said, rebutting claims by Mitre's attorney that it was "fraudulently irresponsible journalism."

Mitre, which is owned by the London-based Pentland Group, has called the report a “hatchet job."

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