(CN) – A Korean TV network did not defame Yuin University by calling it a “ghost university” and “suspected degree factory,” a California appeals court ruled.
Korean Broadcasting System ran a Sunday magazine piece called “Degree Factory Confers Doctorate Degrees even to Persons who Plagiarize.”
It called Yuin University in Compton, Calif., a “suspected…degree factory.”
The reporters found no students, faculty or staff at the university building, only a sign to show that the school exists.
The KBS reporters also investigated the doctoral dissertation and found two to be identical down to the typographical errors in the footnotes. Another seemed to be copied from Internet articles, they found.
The broadcast concluded by calling Yuin “virtually a ghost school that cannot be found on any reliable … websites including that of the state of California. Without being controlled, this school that recklessly issued degrees not admissible even in the USA has invited new students by maintaining an admission office in Korea until last year.”
Yuin sued KBS for libel based on the statements that it was “vacant,” a “ghost school” and that two dissertations were “perfectly identical.”
The trial court ruled in favor of KBS, stating that the first two statements were protected hyperbolic speech based on the reporters’ observations. The statement about the dissertations was not “utterly false,” the court ruled.
The Los Angeles-based Second District California Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s ruling in an opinion written by Justice Tricia Bigelow.
“The broadcast begins with a statement that it has investigated a school that is suspected as a degree factory. KBS then provides underlying facts to support its opinion,” Bigelow wrote.
“Given the context in which KBS presents its characterization of Yuin as a ‘suspected degree factory,’ it is apparent that the statement was an expression of opinion, which cannot support a defamation action, rather than a statement of fact which may be demonstrably false,” she added.