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CBS's Jackson Dealings Raises Questions

planned to run its shelved Michael Jackson
entertainment special last Friday night, raising some eyebrows. The tribute, which had been pulled when Jackson was charged with child molestation, was placed on the schedule just days after a Dec. 28 60 Minutes interview with the singer. A New York Times
story last week cited unnamed Jackson employees as saying Jackson's attorney and a member of the Nation of Islam had negotiated the interview with CBS Chairman and CEO Les Moonves
and that airing the tribute was the quid pro quo.

CBS disputed that. Moonves was involved in the negotiation, a CBS spokesman confirmed, but would not comment on who negotiated from the Jackson side.

As to the quid pro quo issue, the special and interview were clearly linked, but CBS suggests that it was in the driver's seat. 60 Minutes
executive producer Don Hewitt
had no comment, but show spokesman Kevin Tedesco
said the news interview had not been secured in exchange for agreeing to schedule the tribute. "Entertainment people have been saying all along that they wouldn't put the show on unless an interview occurred in which he answered the allegations," Tedesco said. "Meanwhile, 60 Minutes
has been trying to get that interview for over a year. The only deal we made is 'you give us an interview and we'll put it on the air.'"

But CBS also initially said it would not consider airing the entertainment tribute until "after the due process of the legal system runs its course," which it has clearly yet to do. Why the change? A CBS Entertainment
spokeswoman said Jackson's addressing the charges in the interview cleared the way for the special. "The timing is better," she said but would not comment beyond that.

While We Were Gone...

At press time, Twentieth Television
had renewed Texas Justice, Divorce Court and Good Day Live for another season on the Fox
owned-and-operated stations. Good Day Live
launched nationally last January; Texas Justice
is in its third season, Divorce Court
in its fifth. ...

Former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura's MSNBC
weekend talk show was canceled after just three months on the air. Jesse Ventura's America, which was being produced from St. Paul, Minn., was already on break for the holidays and will now stay off the air. The show was averaging 294,000 viewers. In a note to staffers, MSNBC President Erik Sorenson
said the network will focus its resources on Monday-Friday prime time in 2004, particularly the 9 p.m. time slot, which has been linked to Deborah Norville
. …

Starting this month, Nielsen Media Research
is changing the way it reports ratings data for premium cable networks. The ratings company will now report the primary channel of each premium net—HBO, Showtime, Cinemax and The Movie Channel—separately. Previously, Nielsen reported aggregate numbers for premium nets' channels. …

and Cox Communications
have inked a new five-year carriage pact, including distribution for BET Jazz. The agreement covers Cox's 6.3 million subscribers in big markets like Las Vegas, Phoenix, New Orleans/Baton Rouge, San Diego, Oklahoma City and Hampton Roads, Va.

BET and BET Jazz have also renewed carriage deals with Comcast
as part of a bigger deal between the cable operator and BET parent Viacom.