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THE ABC’S OF MICHAEL JACKSON

ABC’s concerted attempt to put its resources behind the rehabilitation of Michael Jackson did not stop with Diane Sawyer’s exclusive interview with the much-maligned super-star. According to industry sources, ABC Entertainment prexy Ted Harbert began negotiations with Jackson’s manager Sandy Gallin over a year ago to get access to Mr. HIStory’s videos to air during primetime. In exchange, Jackson would get a certain number of commercial spots to promote his current album. According to an ABC spokesman, the network has cut a deal in principal with Jackson, with exact details still being worked out.

Coincidence or something more? A spokesman for ABC News denies there is any connection between the deal Harbert cut with Jackson’s management and Sawyer landing an exclusive that, in the words of shock jock Howard Stern, transformed the $7 million anchorwoman into “Sally Jesse Raphael without the red glasses.”

Meanwhile, Jackson has “not been cleared,” of all child molestation charges against him, according to what Thomas Sneddon, the Santa Barbara, Calif., district attorney told the New York Times last week. But that hasn’t stopped ABC from considering showing the pop star’s videos interspersed in its family-oriented T.G.I.F. lineup, according to an ABC source. For that matter, it hasn’t stopped NBC either, which announced last week it would air Jackson videos, too, on June 26 after “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.”

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