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Jacko’s minders mobilize on verdict

Leaving aside the self-anointed moral pundits who pronounced him guilty from the get-go, was anyone really shocked that Michael Jackson was acquitted on 10 counts of child molestation?

Anyone who has followed the recent parade of high-profile trials — from O.J. Simpson to Kobe Bryant to Robert Blake — probably wasn’t.

Forget guilt or innocence. Most celebrities can afford the best lawyers as well as the best spin doctors. When it comes to the rich and famous, the burden of proof is getting higher, and naïve or overzealous prosecutors are rarely up to the task.

In the pop star’s case, there was a worldwide contingent of fans who steadfastly refused to believe the worst of their icon. And jurors must have been asking themselves why the parents of these boys who visited Neverland weren’t being held to account as much as they pondered what really went on in Jackson’s bedroom.

But we move on. And quickly.

It seems Jackson’s minders hadn’t spent their time obsessing about what might happen to him in a prison cell. They were already planning to pitch the story of his ordeal to the networks, and even to sue journalist Martin Bashir, whose documentary triggered this latest round of accusations.

And Jackson himself?

It’s a fascinating question as to whether he can both effect another makeover and stage a comeback — we know he needs the dough.

But judging from his spectral appearance and benumbed demeanor during the trial, not to mention his well-established reclusiveness and bizarre antics, he’ll need mucho help from his friends in achieving either.

* * *

While the media were focused on that nondescript courthouse in Santa Maria, Calif., D.C. solons had their own eyes on the media.

It did not come off well for any constituency.

First, the House Appropriations Committee voted to slash funding for the Corp. for Public Broadcasting, a move Dems said was yet another Republican swipe at Elmo, Clifford, et al for their alleged liberal bias. The GOP said it was just trying to find things to trim out of a bloated budget. Cuts may still get a rethink, but a former Republican National Committee co-chairwoman is almost certainly going to be appointed CPB prexy.

Then the Supreme Court dealt a blow to media congloms by upholding a lower court ruling that blocked further easing of media ownership restrictions. Consumer groups praised the decision. Congloms are still hoping the FCC will tinker to their advantage.

A couple of days later TV stations took it on the chin when Sen. John McCain upbraided them for their tortoise-like pace in switching to digital. He suggested that communications during the World Trade Center collapse might have been better — and saved lives — had more analog spectrum been available to police and firemen. In any case, they’ve been goosed: His bill calls for a final cutoff of analog on Dec. 31, 2008.

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