The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Camera out, but media circus rolls

Los Angeles, Feb. 2 (Reuters): Cameras may be barred from Michael Jackson's trial but that has not stopped a media circus from descending on an obscure California city to cover what some call the celebrity story of the century ' a tale of sex and a falling rock ' roll star.

More than 1,000 journalists from countries as far flung as Australia and Switzerland have signed up to report on Jackson's trial on child sex abuse charges. Despite little news of substance so far, even fewer pictures, and protests by several news organisations about charges of up to $300 each a day levied by authorities, the Jackson trial looks destined for saturation coverage.

'This clearly is going to be the big story of the news cycle for the next several months,' said Robert Thompson, executive director of Syracuse University's Center for the Study of Popular Television. 'You've got a guy who is, without question, one of the biggest international celebrities of a generation, and who is now accused of crimes that many people would consider more taboo than murder,' he said.

The self-styled 'King of Pop' is charged with molesting a 13-year-old boy at his Neverland ranch, plying the boy with alcohol, and then trying to cover up his deeds by keeping the boy and his family virtual prisoners.

In the small, central California town of Santa Maria, offices overlooking the courthouse have rented out roof space to photographers and front lawns to camera crews. The local coffee shop rented out its back room as an office for one overseas news organisation.

The judge has banned cameras from the courtroom, forcing 24-hour news television channels in particular to come up with new ways to keep their audiences interested.

Britain's BSkyB and US cable network E! Entertainment have teamed up in a plan that will use actors to recreate the daily action by reading trial transcripts. But the nature of the charges could pose problems for US reporters. 'It is very tricky to cover. There will probably be some finessing of the language. We broadcast to a family audience and so we have to be sensitive,' said Jennifer Siebens, West Coast bureau chief for CBS News.

And should the news become unfit, or simply too scarce to print, the media will resort to a vast library of old Michael Jackson music videos, concerts and news footage.

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