CBS's Jackson Dealings Raises Questions
By Staff -- Broadcasting & Cable, 1/4/2004 7:00:00 PM
CBS planned to run its shelved Michael Jackson entertainment special last Friday night, raising some eyebrows. The tribute, which had been pulled when Jackson was charged with child molestation, was placed on the schedule just days after a Dec. 28 60 Minutes interview with the singer. A New York Times story last week cited unnamed Jackson employees as saying Jackson's attorney and a member of the Nation of Islam had negotiated the interview with CBS Chairman and CEO Les Moonves and that airing the tribute was the quid pro quo.
CBS disputed that. Moonves was involved in the negotiation, a CBS spokesman confirmed, but would not comment on who negotiated from the Jackson side.
As to the quid pro quo issue, the special and interview were clearly linked, but CBS suggests that it was in the driver's seat. 60 Minutes executive producer Don Hewitt had no comment, but show spokesman Kevin Tedesco said the news interview had not been secured in exchange for agreeing to schedule the tribute. "Entertainment people have been saying all along that they wouldn't put the show on unless an interview occurred in which he answered the allegations," Tedesco said. "Meanwhile, 60 Minutes has been trying to get that interview for over a year. The only deal we made is 'you give us an interview and we'll put it on the air.'"
But CBS also initially said it would not consider airing the entertainment tribute until "after the due process of the legal system runs its course," which it has clearly yet to do. Why the change? A CBS Entertainment spokeswoman said Jackson's addressing the charges in the interview cleared the way for the special. "The timing is better," she said but would not comment beyond that.
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