DID 60 MINUTES PAY JACKSON?

Under a headline reading "Michael Jackson Is Said to Get $1 Million for CBS Interview," the New York Times reported today (Wednesday) that CBS agreed to increase its fee to Jackson for an entertainment special by $1 million if he would agree to be interviewed on 60 Minutes. "In essence they paid him" for the interview, a Jackson associate told the newspaper, "but they didn't pay him out of the 60 Minutes budget; they paid him from the entertainment budget, and CBS just shifts around the money internally. That way 60 Minutes can say '60 Minutes didn't pay for the interview.'" The Jackson entertainment special is now scheduled to air on CBS on Friday, Jan. 2. The Times' source said that he was speaking out because he had not been paid his commission for negotiating the deal and had been denied access to Jackson since Nation of Islam official Leonard Muhammad allegedly became involved in Jackson's affairs. FoxNews.com's Roger Friedman today identified the Times' source as Jackson's former manager Dieter Wiesner and claimed Wiesner was not involved in setting up the CBS interview.

60 MINUTES RETURNS TO NO. 1

For the fist time in more than five years, 60 Minutes has returned to the top of the Nielsen list, thanks to Ed Bradley's interview with Michael Jackson. Once the perennial number-one show on television, the magazine has slipped in recent years and currently draws one of the oldest audiences in primetime (although the Jackson interview drew the largest number of 18-49-year-olds the show has been able to claim since 1999). The interview also helped CBS win the week in overall households with an average 6.2 rating and an 11 share. ABC emerged as a contender again as it scored a second-place 5.1/9. NBC finished third with a 4.7/9, a smidgin ahead of Fox, which recorded a 4.7/8.

The top ten shows of the week according to Nielsen Research:

1. 60 Minutes, CBS, 12.0/20; 2. NFL Run-over (Sunday), CBS, 11.7/21; 3. NFL Monday Night Football, ABC, 11.1/19; 4. CSI: Miami, CBS, 9.0/15; 5. Everybody Loves Raymond, CBS, 8.4/13; 5. NFL Monday Showcase, ABC, 8.4/14; 7. Two and a Half Men, CBS, 8.0/13; 8. Law and Order : SVU, NBC, 7.7/14; 9. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CBS, 7.5/15; 9. Without a Trace, CBS, 7.5/15.

DISNEY CASTING NEW SITCOM VIA THE INTERNET

In an unusual experiment, Disney is using the Internet to hunt for twin sisters to star in a sitcom based on the movie, The Parent Trap. (In the original film, Hayley Mills played both twins.) The company's Touchstone TV unit on Tuesday posted instructions for twins to follow in order to audition for the show. ["Step 1: Download & print your audition scene Step 2: Learn your lines Step 3: Tape your audition; if possible use a digital video (DV) camcorder. DV is the preferred format, but we will also accept other tape formats. Step 4: Begin your audition. When performing the scene, speak directly to each other not into camera. Watch your audition after you are finished and make sure that you are happy with it. Step 5: Send your videotape to Sheryl Levine Casting at Tollin/Robbins Productions, 10960 Ventura Blvd., Studio City, CA 91604. All envelopes must be postmarked no later than January 10, 2003 for consideration."] The company is also holding live auditions in New York, Los Angeles, Toronto, and Vancouver on Jan. 10.

NORVILLE TO BECOME MSNBC'S THREAT AT 9:00

Hoping to get back into the competition for primetime news viewers, MSNBC is planning to launch a new 9:00 p.m. interview show hosted by Deborah Norville that will take on CNN's Larry King and Fox News Channel's Hannity & Colmes. Norville is expected to continue as anchor of the syndicated Inside Edition, as well, according to published reports.

SOUTH KOREA TV OPENS THE DOOR TO JAPAN

The government of South Korea today (Wednesday) lifted a ban on certain Japanese television shows. It permitted dramas that are produced in Japan to be shown on cable and satellite channels and allowed joint Korean-Japanese productions to be shown on over-the-air stations as well. Programs produced solely by Japanese companies will continue to be barred, because they pose "a threat to the domestic entertainment industry" and "because of public sensitivity over Japanese efforts to eradicate Korean culture" when Korea was colonized by Japan from 1910 to 1945.

NBC FOOTAGE SHOWS LYNCH WAS BEING TREATED BY IRAQIS

Appearing to refute claims that PFC Jessica Lynch was mistreated following her capture by Iraqi soldiers last March, NBC has aired footage taken of Lynch and fellow soldier Private Lori Piestewa by Iraqi state television, showing them bandaged in a hospital. Piestewa died later of her injuries. The footage was shown Tuesday night on NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw. The two were identified by Shoshana Johnson, a U.S. Army Specialist, who was captured along with Lynch and Piestewa but was not seriously injured. "It was a little shocking to see Lori, but it also gave me a little peace to know that they tried, they did their best for her," Johnson told the network. "It was obvious they tried to bandage her up and give her medical care."

CORRECTION:

In a headline in Tuesday's edition, we incorrectly stated the age of actor Earl Hindman at the time of his death. As the item itself correctly indicated, he was 61.

UPROAR OVER DISNEY PARADE FLOAT

The Walt Disney Co. was being taken to task Tuesday for its plan to present a float titled the "Twilight Zone Tower of Terror" during the Rose Parade in Pasadena Thursday. The float, which depicts a Disney theme park ride in which a hotel skyscraper is struck by lightning and an earthquake, resulting in an elevator falling from the top level, was particularly criticized by relatives of victims of the 9/11 tragedy, the Associated Press reported.

PLOWRIGHT SINGS "THERE IS NOTHING LIKE A DAME"

Veteran actress Joan Plowright has been dubbed Dame Joan by Queen Elizabeth as part of her annual New Year Honors. Actress Virginia McKenna, who starred in 1964's Born Free and subsequently became a wildlife activist, was awarded the CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire), along with director Stephen Daldry (Billy Elliot, The Hours) and rock stars Eric Clapton and Ray Davies." The CBE carries no title, but those to whom it is awarded may place the letters after their name.

INDIAN DISTRIBUTOR SLASHES PIC; PRODUCER HOWLS

India's J.P. Dutta, the director, producer and writer of LoC (Line of Control), a nearly four-hour movie about India's war with Pakistan over Kashmir, has expressed outrage over the decision by a distributor in the state of Bihar to chop more than a half hour from the film. "I can't believe there is lawlessness in Bihar even in the movie-entertainment business," Dutta told the Indian website Sufy News. "I've heard of small portions of long films being chopped off. But more than half a hour of footage is unheard of!" The film, generally regarded as the most anticipated of the year in India, has not fared well with many critics. The Times of India's Nikhat Kazmi wrote: "Too many characters, too many stories. Dutta fails to whip up the emotional quotient of the film. The soundtrack is one long volley of gunfire, punctuated by half-expletives which does not help to lessen the tedium."

JOHN GREGORY DUNNE DIES AT 71

John Gregory Dunne, whose novels often had a Hollywood setting and who himself was a bigger-than-life Hollywood personality, died following a heart attack Tuesday night in New York at the age of 71. He often collaborated with his wife, Joan Didion, with whom he worked on the screenplay for the 1976 remake of A Star Is Born. He also worked with her on the screenplay of the 1981 film True Confessions, based on his own best-selling novel. The couple were reportedly dining in their Manhattan apartment when he was stricken.

NOTE:

Studio Briefing will not be published on Thursday, New Year's Day. Today's edition will be updated, if warranted, on Friday.