Fox Shapes Up New Jackson Special

Michael Jackson has made good on his threat to release his own footage compiled during months of interviews with British journalist Martin Bashir, whose recent TV special on Jackson caused a stir on b

Michael Jackson has made good on his threat to release his own footage compiled during months of interviews with British journalist Martin Bashir, whose recent TV special on Jackson caused a stir on both sides of the Atlantic.

Jackson's camp has struck a deal with Fox Broadcasting Co. for a two-hour special to air Feb. 20. Tentatively titled "Michael Jackson Take 2: The Interview They Wouldn't Show You!" the special promises to feature outtakes and unused material from the Bashir sessions as well as a lengthy interview with Deborah Rowe, Jackson's ex-wife and the mother of his two young children.

Brad Lachman Productions is sifting through the Jackson footage and the Rowe interview, which was taped last week at Jackson's behest, to assemble the Fox special. Jackson has been on the offensive since the Bashir special aired Jan. 25 on the United Kingdom's ITV. ABC drew more than 27 million viewers last week with its telecast of the two-hour interview, during which Bashir confronted Jackson on his legendary eccentricities, particularly his relations with children who visit his Neverland estate in Santa Barbara, Calif.

Jackson has maintained that Bashir used deceptive questioning and editing tricks to paint him in a bad light. Jackson's lawyers have filed a complaint with the British Broadcasting Standards Commission. After the ABC telecast last week, Jackson vowed to release footage that would cast doubt on the credibility of Bashir and his report.

Jackson's camp has fielded overtures from dozens of news outlets since the ABC special aired, including ABC's Barbara Walters and CBS' "60 Minutes," Jackson spokesman Stuart Backerman said. Backerman said they opted to go with Fox "because they gave us the best package to present the most comprehensive view of the true facts from beginning to end."

It was unclear how much Fox is paying for the rights to Jackson's private footage. Backerman insisted that Jackson is "not making a dime" from the Fox special, though he acknowledged that some money was changing hands in the form of a license fee that Fox would pay for the special.

"Michael is doing this because he wants to set the record straight," Backerman said. "He felt betrayed and abused by Mr. Bashir. He felt it was a setup, and the video footage that will be revealed very soon will make that as clear as a smoking gun." Granada Television, which produced the Bashir special, said last week in response to the complaint filed in Britain that it stood by Bashir's report.

Jackson has at least two hours of footage taken by his private cameraman of the interview sessions with Bashir, Backerman said. The Rowe interview was conducted last Wednesday as a one-on-one with a male journalist "who is not connected to Jackson," Backerman said, though he would not identify the journalist. "She was extremely credible, well-spoken, and emotional at times," Backerman said of Rowe's interview. "She was consistent in her responses and open in her discussion of the issues."