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NBC paying Hilton for interview?

Reported by Chrish - June 21, 2007 -

After devoting nearly the entire hour of The Big Story today 6/21/07 to the missing Ohio woman, no mention of the 15 Americans killed in Iraq in the last three days, John Gibson unloaded on NBC in the final minutes during his "My Word" segment. His comments were derived from, echoed and elaborated on the story in FNC's sister company NY Post, a relationship he didn't mention to viewers.

The essence of the story is that Paris Hilton has reportedly agreed to be interviewed by NBC Today Show host Meredith Viera, and the NYPost reports that she is to be paid $1 million dollars for the interview. Therein lies Gibson's talking point, that a news organization is allegedly paying for an interview, a journalistic no-no. He said

"...the dirty secret of the morning show booking wars is now out in the open: The network shows pay for guests if they are forced to and the official policy manual is ignored."
But then he overreached and told his viewers a big story:
"We want Ms. Starlet to come on our program. We know you've been accused of a crime and we know that everybody wants you. And we know you expect to be paid. We here at the Mega TV network's morning show don't pay for interviews, but what we can do is make certain that your lawyer is nearby to render advice for the interview and we'll pick up his legal fees.

Then the lawyer submits a huge bill to the network, keeps some for himself and gives his client the rest.

Voila: We don't pay for interviews, but people do get paid."

According to the LATimes,

"The massive payment (is) purportedly a license fee for the use of personal video and images of the 26-year-old...

...However, it remains unclear whether the interview, reportedly to be conducted by "Today's" Meredith Vieira, has been finalized. Allison Gollust, a spokeswoman for NBC News, said the news division has no commitment from Hilton for an interview, adding that "NBC News has not and will not pay for an interview."

But NBC's entertainment division has been in discussions with Hilton's camp, according to network sources, and could compensate Hilton through a development deal, effectively circumventing the news division's policy prohibiting payments for interviews.

Their reporting went further than the NYPost's or Gibson's:

"The report of the hefty fee — coming at a time when NBC Universal is undergoing companywide cost-cutting — spotlights how the television networks regularly skirt their own ban on checkbook journalism. The practice, a badly kept secret in the industry, takes many forms: free hotel rooms and entertainment while interview subjects are in New York, payment for the "licensing" of home videos and photos to illustrate the story, and other incentives, according to industry veterans. If the costs are too egregious, often the project is shifted to a network's entertainment division, which can pay subjects through production contracts.

CBS News offered Jessica Lynch possible movie and book deals through its sister corporate divisions in an effort to land an exclusive with the former U.S. Army private in 2003. ABC News paid Steve Irwin's widow hundreds of thousands of dollars to use footage of the late naturalist in a prime-time interview with Barbara Walters last fall. (ABC executives said the license fee was necessary because Irwin's widow, Terri, owned all the footage of the "Crocodile Hunter," who died in September.)

This spring, NBC agreed to pay a reported $2.5 million for the rights to air a tribute concert in July marking the 10th anniversary of the death of Princess Diana. Subsequently, Matt Lauer landed an exclusive with Princes Harry and William, which aired in prime time Monday.

"It seems like there are end-runs all over the place, and they are being done in the name of competition," said Al Tompkins, who teaches broadcast ethics at the Poynter Institute, a media resource and school in Florida. "I don't know what transpired here, but what I do know is that any compensation that comes through a network — whether it's a book deal or movie deal or offering special access — none of that has any place in news."

This is happening because corporate news outlets are competing for advertising dollars. I don't disagree with Gibson's insinuation that NBC is making an end run around their own news policies, and it's not a good thing for news consumers. But I do take issue with him highlighting this one incident, which is intended to further the FOX agenda against NBC News.

Was FOX breaking it's own code of ethics (hahahahaha) when they paid $14,000 to get Tom DeLay on FOX News Sunday right after he was indicted (where he could field softballs and defend himself)?

I'm not endorsing it or even excusing it with "everyone does it." It's wrong, and it's bad for our press and democracy. But it's hypocritical and self-serving of Gibson and FOX to isolate one incident to smear their nemesis.