After vehemently defending the practice, ABC says now says it's getting out of the bidding war for exclusive scoops. The network's habit of paying huge sums of money for photo or video licensing fees that often led to exclusive stories has been largely criticized lately as "checkbook journalism." Sometimes ABC's been transparent about paying licensing, and sometimes it has been more secretive. But until now, network executives have defended the practice. 20/20 anchor Chris Cuomo last month said that paying sources for exclusive rights was "the state of pay right now," and Good Morning America producer James Goldstein said that paying sources was "a very small part of the work that we do." Without so much as a press release, though, ABC says it reversed that policy on Monday.
"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," ABC spokesman Jeffrey Schneider told Howard Kurtz at The Daily Beast. "These licensing deals had become a crutch, and an unnecessary one."
Kurtz, however, almost sneakily slips in a disclaimer just after the above comment: "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."