A witness at the murder trial of Casey Anthony testified Tuesday that he was paid $15,000 by ABC News to license a snake photo. Meter reader Roy Kronk, who eventually found the body of 2-year-old Caylee Anthony, discovered a dead rattlesnake in the same area several months before. ABC News interviewed Kronk just after the body was discovered. The interview touched on the idea that snakes might have initially impeded a police search for the body, but it would be difficult to argue the snake photo was critical to ABC’s story. In fact, Kronk reveals the motivation behind the fee. “I was paid for a licensed picture of a snake but I knew there would probably be an interview involved,” he testified.
This is the latest revelation that ABC News has paid licensing fees for access to interviews, including $200,000 to Casey Anthony while she was under investigation but before she was charged with killing her daughter.
The $215,000 paid in licensing fees to Anthony and Kronk are all that was paid by the network related to that story, according to Jeffrey Schneider, senior vice president of ABC News.
Those payments were made in 2008 and early 2009, before ABC News announced it would disclose such fees to viewers. The new policy is to “disclose that we have entered into a license agreement for material,” Schneider said by phone, but the policy does not include publishing the amount paid along with the disclosure.
Schneider points out that “the license fees are a miniscule part of a hundreds of millions of dollars news budget, and to describe our work in terms of those licenses is to miss the entire forest for a tree… It’s getting the exclusive interview with Commander [Mark] Kelly after the congresswoman [Gabrielle Giffords] is shot; It’s getting in to see President Mubarak on an absolutely historic day. It is the team coverage in Japan with the only anchor who goes there.”
Earlier this month, ABC paid Meagan Broussard for photos she sent Anthony Weiner as part of the scandal that led to the congressman’s resignation. Though ABC told The New York Times it did not pay a licensing fee in conjunction with its upcoming interview of Jaycee Dugard, the network did reportedly pay for family home movies last year. || Deggans: News organizations should disclose these payments || Previously: ABC’s Chris Cuomo defends checkbook journalism: ‘It is the state of play right now’ || Plus: 5 reasons broadcasters pay licensing fees for stories and why it corrupts journalism