The Michael Jackson media wars continue, with Fox agreeing to air outtakes the singer selected from his controversial interview with a British journalist.
A two-hour special, tentatively titled “Michael Jackson, Take Two: The Interview They Wouldn’t Show You,” is scheduled to air Feb. 20.
The Jackson spectacle is fodder for hungry television networks, particularly in a hotly contested ratings sweeps month. ABC’s airing of Jackson’s interview with Martin Bashir was last week’s most popular show, seen by 27.1 million people.
Angered by how Bashir portrayed him – as an odd man-child who says he sometimes innocently lets children sleep in his own bed – Jackson came forward with videotape taken during the Bashir interview by his own production company.
Jackson’s British publicist said over the weekend that the footage “clearly shows that Bashir was actually continuing to praise Michael’s abilities as a father and Bashir making many statements about how he feels it is a pity that the world is so quick to criticize Michael.”
Fox spokesman Scott Grogin said he didn’t know how much the network paid Jackson for the video. ABC reportedly paid a British television company nearly $5 million to show the Bashir interview.
Fox’s special does not feature any new interview with Jackson, Grogin said.
A Jackson spokesman, Stuart Backerman, said Fox was selected because it was he network “that packaged it with the best sensitivity to Michael Jackson.” There were several who were interested, including the other top three broadcast networks, he said.
He would not comment on whether there was a payment to Jackson.
The footage also includes an extensive interview with Debby Rowe, Jackson’s former wife, he said.
Jackson was reportedly ready to give an interview to CBS “60 Minutes” correspondent Ed Bradley over the weekend. But the singer got cold feet, and Bradley left Jackson’s Neverland ranch in California empty-handed.
Meanwhile, the VH1 cable network is rerunning the ABC version of the Bashir interview three times this weekend.
NBC is also moving ahead with a sweeps-month special examining plastic surgery allegedly performed on Jackson’s face. ABC’s “Primetime Thursday” looked at the same subject on Thursday, and it was the week’s third most-popular show in the ratings.
A Jackson representative did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment.