April 16, 2015 / 6:59 PM / 5 years ago

Canadian broadcaster slammed for failing to halt abuse by host

TORONTO (Reuters) - The Canadian Broadcasting Corp was slammed on Thursday for failing to halt the abusive conduct of star radio host Jian Ghomeshi, who is facing criminal charges for sexual assault and choking.

Jian Ghomeshi (C), a former celebrity radio host who has been charged with multiple counts of sexual assault, leaves court alongside his lawyer Marie Henein (R) in Toronto, January 8, 2015. REUTERS/Mark Blinch

An independent report investigating whether senior managers at the national public broadcaster ignored Ghomeshi’s behavior because he boosted ratings, found that managers were aware of his abusive conduct but did nothing to stop it.

The CBC fired Ghomeshi as host of Q, an internationally syndicated CBC Radio music and arts program, in October 2014. The CBC said it had seen graphic evidence that he had injured a woman in what Ghomeshi said were consensual sex acts involving bondage, discipline, sadism and masochism.

The report by law firm Rubin Thomlinson, commissioned by the CBC, found that management failed to stop Ghomeshi’s abusive workplace behavior, which is separate from criminal charges he is facing after several women came forward complaining of his violent sexual behavior.

The report said Ghomeshi made inappropriate comments to colleagues, gave unwanted back and shoulder massages, played cruel jokes, and yelled at and shunned colleagues who displeased him, in addition to other offensive behavior.

“Despite actual knowledge of concerns expressed by employees, Mr. Ghomeshi’s behavior was often left unexamined, characterized as ‘difficult’ or was accepted as the norm of how hosts were expected to behave,” the report said.

“The evidence shows that while Mr. Ghomeshi’s star was allowed to rise, his problematic behavior was left unchecked.”

The broadcaster separately said it had severed ties with executives linked to the scandal, radio executive Chris Boyce and human resources executive Todd Spencer, who had been placed on leave in January.

Ghomeshi is facing eight criminal charges, including seven charges of sexual assault and one of choking. His trial has yet to begin. Ghomeshi’s lawyer said he will plead not guilty.

Ghomeshi, who interviewed a long roster of A-list celebrities including Woody Allen, Barbra Streisand and Paul McCartney in seven years at the helm of Q, initially defended his sexual tastes as a “mild form of ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’,” referring to the bestselling erotic novel.

The CBC is struggling to contain the fallout from the allegations, which recall the Jimmy Savile sex abuse scandal at the British Broadcasting Corp. The BBC was accused of turning a blind eye to the sexual assaults because of Savile’s celebrity.

Reporting by Andrea Hopkins; Editing by Christian Plumb

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