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JOURNALISM IN THE AMERICAS Blog

ABC News curtails payments for exclusive interviews and images



ABC News has severely curtailed its habit of paying sources for exclusive interviews and images, a practice it had called paying a "licensing fee" which had attracted intense criticism of the television network, The Daily Beast reports.

In his Media column for The Daily Beast, Howard Kurtz reported that ABC News quietly changed its policy after Ben Sherwood, the news division president, studied how the company paid for interviews, video and images and found "that such payments could be approved at a relatively low level with little oversight, saddling the network with the fallout." Kurtz quoted ABC spokesman Jeffrey Schneider saying "these licensing deals had become a crutch, and an unnecessary one.”

However, as TheAtlanticWire.com comments, the "change of policy at the network is more of a change of process" considering ABC has reserved the right to grant a licensing fee under "extraordinary circumstances."

Poynter.org notes that ABC has been facing criticism about paying for exclusive interviews and images since it was revealed that it had paid Casey Anthony $200,000 for images of her missing 2-year-old daughter before Anthony was charged with the murder of her child, a rap she subsequently beat after a sensational trial. ABC also promised to pay a mother $10,000 for the rights to a story of how she injected her 8-year-old daughter with botox, but then withheld the payment when the mother admitted the story was false.

AdWeek.com quoted an anonymous NBC spokesperson, who could not help but revel in ABC's policy change, as saying: “We agree that their recent activity has been bad for journalism and the news industry. And we welcome them back to the practices that we work hard to uphold.”

But ABC News is not alone in financially rewarding sources, a practice NBC has also indulged in as networks battle for ratings. CBS apparently does not pay sources, but AdWeek.com reported in May that CBS, other broadcast networks and cable outlets like CNN had licensed material from a company called Barcroft Media which pays for exclusive stories and images.



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