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CBS Denies $1 Million Payday to Michael Jackson for Interview

By Lisa de Moraes
Thursday, January 1, 2004; Page C07

Michael Jackson Under Seige: Day 43: CBS and Jackson's camp yesterday denied a published report that the network added $1 million to the license fee it paid the singer for a prime-time music special to get him to talk to "60 Minutes" about the child molestation charges he faces.

"Categorically false" is how CBS News, in a statement, labeled the report, and Jackson adviser Charles Koppelman, who first brokered the music special in September, called the New York Times report "nonsense."


Michael Jackson in less strange times: At the Radio Music Awards in October. (Joe Cavaretta -- AP)

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In other Weird and Wacky World of Michael Jackson news, the Nation of Islam held a news conference yesterday to announce it has no "official" business with the so-called King of Pop. And the Santa Barbara County sheriff held another one to play video and audio of his people being polite to Jackson during his arrest -- countering the singer's claim that he was "manhandled" by police. The sheriff said that Jackson has seriously undermined his credibility.

Credibility?

In the Times story, headlined "Michael Jackson's $1 Million Interview Deal," an unnamed former business associate of Jackson says CBS agreed to pay the extra money to the star to reschedule the special that was supposed to air in November, coinciding with the release of Jackson's new album, "Number Ones."

CBS shelved the special last month after the Santa Barbara district attorney put out a warrant for Jackson's arrest. (He was later charged with seven counts of child molestation.) A "60 Minutes" interview to address the charges against him was part of the package, the source told the Times, adding, "in essence, they paid him" for the interview.

But Koppelman, a former EMI Records suit, insists no such renegotiation took place and says it was Jackson's people who were trying desperately to get the special back on the schedule.

"That was us. . . . We wanted it on the air, and before Christmas, to sell zillions of albums. That was the whole point of doing it to begin with. The fact that it's on the air now makes us happy, but we will not get nearly the bang for the buck we wanted to get."

He vehemently denies that CBS upped its payment by $1 million to jump-start the special.

"The deal I made was the deal we ended up with," he said. He would not discuss the license fee CBS paid for the entertainment special other than to say that the New York Times figure of $5 million was wrong; some sources familiar with the talks said the figure was less than half that amount. CBS has the right to air the special twice, but Jackson owns the program and can sell it overseas.

"Candidly, if CBS would have run it before Christmas, we would have given [the special] to them for nothing, and that's the truth," Koppelman said. "We wanted to promote the CD. And Michael owns the show, which will air all around the world and again help promote the CD and, ultimately, we will have a DVD out."

When it pulled the special, CBS said it did so because of the gravity of the charges against Jackson, adding that it reserved the right to reschedule it once the legal process had run its course.

But last week, CBS announced that Jackson had agreed to address the charges against him with "60 Minutes" correspondent Ed Bradley; the network also announced it had rescheduled the Jackson music special for tomorrow night.

CBS spokesman Chris Ender acknowledged that CBS had told Jackson's reps that they could not air the special unless Jackson sat down with the news division to talk about the charges against him, but he denied all suggestions that the news interview was a case of tit for tat.


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