Chequebook TV: Sky strikes £150,000 deal with woman in Beckham case

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The Independent Online

BSKYB has paid about £150,000 for the rights to an exclusive interview with a woman at the centre of the Beckham marriage controversy in further evidence that tabloid television is starting to rival the popular press in chequebook journalism.

BSKYB has paid about £150,000 for the rights to an exclusive interview with a woman at the centre of the Beckham marriage controversy in further evidence that tabloid television is starting to rival the popular press in chequebook journalism.

Rebecca Loos, who claims to have had an affair with the England football captain, has signed a deal to tell her story in an hour-long interview on the digital channel Sky One. The arrangement is the latest in a succession of financial arrangements struck by broadcasters to secure big-name interviews.

Ms Loos, who is already thought to have earned £350,000 from selling her story to the News of the World newspaper, is believed to have made a further £150,000 from Sky One.

The emergence of chequebook journalism in broadcasting has greatly increased the potential earnings of participants in the biggest tabloid stories, who can now sell their stories twice over. Sky One's biggest rival for such material is Granada Television's Tonight with Trevor McDonald, which has screened a succession of big interviews - some of which have involved large fees - that have set the news agenda for the tabloid press. But the trend prompted accusations of hypocrisy yesterday from tabloid newspaper editors.

Piers Morgan, editor of the Daily Mirror, said the television world had in the past been "relentlessly scathing, hypocritical and sanctimonious" about tabloid buy-ups.

"I look forward to their justification for getting the chequebook out in such spectacular fashion," he said. "They're all doing it, whether it's the BBC, ITV, Sky or whatever. I've no problem with their moral or ethical position on this other than it completely contrasts with their historical position on the way that tabloids use chequebooks. They have become competitors to us in a strange way, having been relentlessly abusive to our methodology in the past."

Gareth Morgan, editor of the Daily Star Sunday, said the money being offered by Sky would distort even further the public's expectations of what could be earned from selling a story. "I think people's expectations of what papers are prepared to pay are already artificially high," he said. "There's going to be inflation when people see these headline figures. It also makes it open season on the poor Beckhams."

Ms Loos, 26, will be interviewed by Kay Burley, an anchor for Sky News, for a special programme called Rebecca Loos: My Story, to be broadcast tomorrow at 10pm.

The deal with Sky One, the most-watched British digital channel, is understood to have been brokered by the media fixer Max Clifford, who helped Ms Loos to sell her story to the News of the World, the biggest-selling British newspaper.

The largest shareholder in BSkyB is Rupert Murdoch's News Corp, which owns the News of the World.

Mark Borkowski, a public relations expert, said last night that newspapers and broadcasters were sometimes willing to work together to increase their buying power. Tonight with Trevor McDonald is said to have collaborated with The Mail on Sunday in previous buy-ups. Richard Desmond's Express and Star titles can join forces with celebrity magazine titles in the same stable, including OK!.

Mr Borkowski said it was clear that "newspapers and broadcasters are much happier to get into bed together" to overcome their shrinking budgets. "The bottom line is that advertising revenues are falling and readership is falling," he said.

But he maintained that broadcasters would not immediately challenge newspapers in the bidding wars, saying that the television networks "do not have the same confidence or risk values" as the tabloids.

BIG DEALS

Frank Bruno: Gave an exclusive interview to Tonight with Trevor McDonald worth about £25,000 after tabloid revelations that he was seeking treatment for mental health problems.

Rina Attard: The mother of Siamese twins gave an interview to Tonight with Trevor McDonald in 2000 for a reported £150,000 paid into a trust fund for the surviving twin.

Monica Lewinsky: Channel 4 won a bidding war to secure the former White House worker for its investigative Dispatches programme, for a reported £400,000 in 1999.

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