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At ABC News, a Move Away From License Fees

ABC News is planning to cut down significantly on the number of interviews it gets via the paying of license fees, according to The Daily Beast’s Howard Kurtz.

According to Kurtz, the decision to limit the license fees came after new ABC News chief Ben Sherwood decided that the practice was something of a black eye on the news division. ABC paid more than $200,000 to the family of Casey Anthony during the trial, and more recently paid money to a woman who corresponded with Anthony Weiner. An ABC News spokesperson tells TVNewser that Sherwood had been thinking about implementing the change for some time.

When asked for comment, spokesman Jeffrey Schneider confirmed the new policy, saying: “We can book just about anyone based on the strength of our journalism, the excellence of our anchors, correspondents and producers, and the size of our audience. These licensing deals had become a crutch, and an unnecessary one.”

The new approach is not an absolute ban, but network sources say it would take an extraordinary circumstance to allow a licensing fee—perhaps once every couple of years—that would require approval at the highest levels.

The practice of licensing photos, video or other content in exchange for interviews is hardly new, but it has mostly bubbled under the surface. Typically the revelation that a licensing fee was involved is made in the middle of the story, rather than at the beginning or end, and without any explanation as to what the license fee means.

ABC’s “Good Morning America” and NBC’s “Today” have long been two of the most aggressive programs when it comes to the practice. With the change in policy at ABC, it will likely put some pressure on “Today” to cut back on the fees it pays. Without two strong bidders for interviews, the incentive for the other one to continue the practice decreases.

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