WLNE Hit With Suit Over Investigative Report

Youth talent firm says station ambushed them

The entertainment firm Edge 1 Productions has hit WLNE Providence and reporter Parker Gavigan with a lawsuit over an investigative report WLNE aired last month. Nevada-based Edge 1’s subsidiary ACT hosts talent searches for children with entertainment aspirations. Edge 1 charges WLNE, a Global Broadcasting station, with “falsely labeling [Edge 1’s] operations as, and comparing them to, a fraudulent or criminal enterprise.”

In the lawsuit, ACT is described as “a national academy for young talent that offers programs for the performing arts specializing in on-camera acting and role-playing workshops.”

WLNE’s report, titled “The Dream Makers” and conducted by reporter Parker Gavigan, suggested that parents who turned up at Edge 1’s talent fair at a Hilton Hotel in Providence were charged large sums, with their children offered little chance of making it in entertainment. ACT counters that initial auditions are free.

The suit says WLNE reporters busted into the Hilton in an “ ‘ambush’ like setting” and rebuked ACT’s request to offer its side of the story. “Prior to the March 5, 2009 broadcast, ACT, concerned about the sensationalistic aspect of Defendants' intended report and its accuracy, repeatedly asked Defendant Gavigan to provide the most basic details of what he was going to report in order to permit ACT an opportunity to respond, and further to permit him to interview ACT before airing the broadcast. In violation of accepted journalistic standards he refused and failed to notify ACT of the nature of the charges Defendants intended to make and give ACT an opportunity to respond.”

ACT is seeking at least $5 million in the suit. It’s represented by the Providence law firm Asquith & Mahoney, which did not return a call for comment late Friday.

WLNE has vowed to fight the charge. “Investigative reporting is very important to us, and we understand the responsibility to be accurate,” said WLNE VP/General Manager Steve Doerr. “We stand by the story.”