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Paid Interviews Included In Jackson Special

ABC News defended its decision to include paid interviews from a British TV documentary mixed with its own original reporting in a prime-time special about Michael Jackson and his relationships with y

ABC News defended its decision to include paid interviews from a British TV documentary mixed with its own original reporting in a prime-time special about Michael Jackson and his relationships with young boys.

In an unusual disclaimer run twice during Thursday's two-hour special, ABC said its program contained "excerpts from a documentary made by a British production company" and that "some of the individuals who appeared in that documentary received compensation for their participation."

The disclaimer added: "No payment was made for any of the interviews conducted by [ABC News correspondent] Martin Bashir or ABC News."

ABC-produced segments were interspersed with the British footage throughout the special and the program did not specify which interviews had been paid for and which had not.

But ABC, a unit of the Walt Disney Co., dismissed suggestions that viewers might be confused. The network said its own segments were distinguished from the British material using on-screen graphics.

"It was made quite clear what came from the British documentary and what came from original ABC News reporting," ABC News executive vice president Jeffrey Schneider said. "All of the information that we presented meets the standards of ABC News. And we were able to make those determinations based on extensive additional reporting and extensive vetting."

He added that it is common practice for broadcast news outlets in Britain to pay their interview subjects and said the payments in this case were "nominal" stipends, amounting to hundreds of dollars.

Some observers suggested that ABC was trying to have it both ways by assuring the public that it adheres to more stringent standards of American journalism while disclosing its inclusion of interviews paid for by others.

The program chronicled Jackson's history of friendships with young boys. One such relationship led to criminal charges of child molestation being leveled against the pop star, who is on trial in California.


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