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TESS VIGELAND: We reeeeeally didn’t want to talk about this. We haven’t up to this point. And had no plans to. So apologies in advance. But the networks made us do it. Paris Hilton’s first post-prison interview has sparked something of a bidding war if today’s headlines are to be believed. But those headlines apparently backfired and now there’s no interview. Jill Barshay reports on what’s at stake for the network news shows.

Jill Barshay: NBC news may have offered more than $750,000 to Paris Hilton. New York newspapers said the information came from anonymous sources at ABC news who wanted the interview too.

Both ABC News and NBC News deny they were willing to pay for Paris. Now the poor heiress may be left without any interview deal.

Al Tompkins is a former television news director who now runs the broadcast program at the Poynter Institute.

Al Tompkins: As we move into sort of a celebrity news culture, my guess is that these kinds of agreements, these kinds of things, are more common than they once were. And sadly, maybe becoming more common than they once were.

ABC news does admit it pays for video and photograph rights. And that’s where things get fuzzy. A Hollywood talent agent told Marketplace he’s heard of a news program paying $250,000 for hair and makeup.

The talent agent says that celebrities want more money for interviews. TV network executives calculate that top celebrities will drive ratings and ad dollars.

Peter Hart is the activism director at FAIR, a media watchdog group. He says the trend is bad for viewers.

Peter Hart: Viewers, they want to know that news outlets are interviewing someone ’cause what they have to say is important or newsworthy, not because the news outlet paid them.

The Poynter Institute’s Al Tompkin says the trend’s not good for the network either. They may hook advertisers in the short term, but risk losing them in the end.

In New York, I’m Jill Barshay for Marketplace.

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