ABC News is being accused of checkbook journalism after landing the first sit-down interview with Joe Jackson following the recent 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 the interview will air tonight on the network as part of its summer series "Primetime Family Secrets."
Mediabistro.com's "TVNewser" blog about the broadcast industry reported Friday that the exclusive interview came after ABC News paid $200,000 for video shot over the last year. 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 around patriarch Joe Jackson as he tried to reunite his sons for a tour, said executive producer Lisa Love.
Over 40 hours of footage were filmed, following the Jacksons in their Encino 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 family members who participated. She also said the company had not tried to sell the series or any footage before the singer's death on June 25.
ABC News licensed 10 minutes of footage which 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 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 as buying them first-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. The program was announced in May and will feature Jackie, Jermaine, Marlon, Tito and Randy. Producers said they would have to make content changes because of Michael Jackson's sudden death.