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ABC denies paying for Joe Jackson exclusive interview (updated)

July 13, 2009 |  5:02 pm

ABC News is being accused of checkbook journalism after landing the first sit-down interview with Joe Jackson following the death of his pop superstar son Michael. Segments of a 45-minute interview with the Jackson family patriarch have already aired on ABC’s “Nightline” and “Good Morning America,” but the bulk of interview will air Tuesday night on the network as part of its summer series “Primetime: Family Secrets.”

Mediabistro’s “TVNewser” reported last week that the exclusive interview came after ABC News paid $200,000 for video shot a year ago. On Monday, details of the footage and deal emerged from Xonger Global Entertainment Network, which produced it, and APA, the Beverly Hills talent agency hired to negotiate licenses with domestic and international buyers. Xonger was granted intimate access last year to the Jackson family to film a reality series centered on patriarch Joe Jackson as he tried to reunite his sons for a tour, said executive producer Lisa Love.

Over 40 hours of footage was filmed, following the Jacksons in their Hayvenhurst estate as well as traveling around the country over a six-month period. Michael Jackson was not involved in the project, and Love would not name other members of the family who participated. She also said the company had not tried to sell the series or any of the footage before the singer’s death June 25.

ABC News licensed 10 minutes of footage that producers found worthwhile because tonight’s hour-long show will focus on what will happen to Michael Jackson’s three children, sources said. In the footage, it is revealed that Katherine Jackson, whom Michael Jackson named in his will to raise his children, is in fact raising several of the King of Pop’s nieces and nephews.

ABC News producers thought the year-old footage was worthwhile because tonight’s hour-long show will focus on what will happen to Michael Jackson’s three children, sources said. In the footage, it is revealed that Katherine Jackson, whom Michael Jackson named in his will to raise his children, is, in fact, raising several of the King of Pop’s nieces and nephews. But the network maintains that Joe Jackson was not paid for the interview, which took place two days after Michael Jackson’s memorial service, sources at ABC News said.

ABC News insists the exchange of money for footage has nothing to do with landing the exclusive interview, but critics are citing it as the latest example of checkbook journalism, the practice of indirectly compensating interview subjects by paying licensing fees for home videos or other perks, such  asfirst-class plane tickets.

“We don’t pay for interviews, period,” ABC News spokesman Jeffrey Schneider said.

Rob Kaplan of APA said that reports claiming that ABC News paid Joe Jackson for his interview are incorrect.

“ABC did not pay Joe Jackson for the interview. It came through my office, and we negotiated with ABC and it was on behalf of our client, Xonger,” Kaplan said

Meanwhile, cable network A&E has separate footage of the Jackson brothers for a special it plans to air next year. That program was announced in May and will feature Jermaine, Marlon, Tito, Jackie and Randy as they prepare for a reunion tour and new album, an A&E spokesman said. In the special, some of the brothers return to their hometown of Gary, Ind., to talk about their prospects.

Although the network still plans to air it, producers said they will have to make content changes because of Michael Jackson’s sudden death.

-- Maria Elena Fernandez

-- Update: This post has been updated with new information from Xonger and APA.

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