Canada’s Global Television suspended anchor Leslie Roberts for a conflict of interest earlier this month. Roberts has now resigned from Global.
In a news report on its website, Global said Roberts resigned after an investigation into his role at a public relations firm.
Roberts had “secretly been the part owner of a small public relations firm whose clients — lawyers, small businesses and others — appear on his show,” the Toronto Star reported.
Roberts hosted The Morning Show and Toronto News House for Global Television.
The Toronto Star discovered that Roberts was part owner of BuzzPR, where he is also “creative director.” Roberts’ name wasn’t on the BuzzPR website and his bosses at Global Television didn’t know about his conflict of interest, which he didn’t disclose on air when interviewing BuzzPR’s clients, the Star reported.
After the Star confronted Roberts and Global Television with the conflict of interest, Roberts told Global Television about his relationship with the PR firm and told the Star he’d resign from the firm.
Global Television then suspended him, with a spokesperson Rishma Govani saying he was “suspended from his duties indefinitely as we conduct a full investigation into this matter.”
Further, in a news report on the suspension on its own website, Global News reported that its senior vice president of news added “We have a codified principles and practices document that is quite lengthy that clearly articulates the expectations of all of our journalists in terms of maintaining editorial independence.”
The investigation reviewed “whether Roberts improperly tried to influence news coverage involving his alleged clients,” Global News reported.
Roberts said he wasn’t paid by clients to get on Global TV, or even as a salaried staffer at BuzzPR but admitted, “I agree this doesn’t look very good,” when asked by the Star.
Roberts “said he holds an ‘equity’ position in BuzzPR but has never taken a salary, though he has been reimbursed for expenses when he and clients have been out to dinner,” the Star reported. “Roberts said he never directly accepted payment from a client to be a guest on his show. However, he acknowledged that each business client pays BuzzPR to get media exposure on Global and other networks.”
Meanwhile, BuzzPR managing director Kashif Khan defended Roberts in an interview with the Toronto Sun saying Roberts “did not deal with the media relations side of the business as the Toronto Star article infers” and instead worked “on a creative level on writing and media training.”
iMediaEthics has written to Global and BuzzPR for comment. We’ve also reached out to Roberts via Twitter.