'60 Minute' interview helps spur decision

CBS is ditching “Joan of Arcadia” for “Jacko of Neverland” — at least for a week.

Eye has rescheduled the spec “Michael Jackson Number Ones” to air Friday at 8 p.m., displacing a repeat of hit frosh drama “Joan.” Move was a direct result of Jackson’s decision to sit down for an interview with “60 Minutes” correspondent Ed Bradley.

Bradley’s interview — the first since the latest Jacko controversy erupted — aired last night.

CBS pulled “Number Ones,” which had been set to air on the final night of the November sweeps, following a police raid on Jackson’s Neverland Ranch. Yet even as it delayed the broadcast, net remained in contact with Jackson’s camp, strongly hinting to Jackson’s reps that the spec couldn’t air unless Jackson agreed to speak (Daily Variety, Dec. 24).

Eye senior VP Chris Ender said Jackson responding to the events of the last month was a prerequisite for “Number Ones” airing.

“We certainly wouldn’t have rescheduled the entertainment special if he hadn’t addressed the situation elsewhere on our network,” Ender told the Associated Press on Friday.

CBS has had to walk a fine line in dealing with the Jackson spec.

Net has had a good relationship with the singer, airing a high-rated tribute concert to mark the 30th anniversary of Jackson’s showbiz career. At the same time, CBS certainly doesn’t want to appear to be a shill for the singer at a time when he faces serious legal trouble.

That balancing act was clear in the initial, carefully worded CBS statement last month announcing the postponement of the spec.

“Given the gravity of the charges against Mr. Jackson, we believe it would be inappropriate at this time to broadcast an entertainment special,” CBS said (Daily Variety, Nov. 20). “However, we are very mindful that Mr. Jackson is innocent until proven guilty. We will consider broadcasting the special after the due process of the legal system runs its course.”

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