The death of actor Heath Ledger has not been the media’s finest hour. I won’t pretend to be above that fray – this is a post about Ledger’s death after all – but the frenzy that entertainment news has become had a particularly heinous week. However, some may be surprised to learn that a PR firm brought a sense of abstemiousness to the crush of rumor, stalking, and misreporting.
When the Hollywood gossip shows “Entertainment Tonight” and “The Insider” bought a two-year-old video of Ledger at a drug and booze soaked party, Ledger’s PR firm, IDPR, saw red. Ledger, who’s widely speculated cause of death has not yet been determined, reportedly did not do drugs in the video.
According to the AP, a publicist at ID saw a promo for the video and asked “ET” that they pull the plug. The show refused.
The firm then issued a statement and distributed it to about 30 other entertainment PR firms, including PMK-HBH, Leslee Dart’s 42 West and Ogilvy’s BWR.
Subject: Entertainment Tonight and Heath Ledger - FYI
Tonight Entertainment Tonight/The Insider are previewing an extremely distasteful segment regarding Heath Ledger. The segment centers around a two-year old video ET purchased for a large sum of money in the hopes of stirring up a salacious and exploitive story about Heath, which would win them big ratings on the first day of sweeps. The two outlets did not even have the courtesy to wait until after Heath's burial to broadcast this segment. They intend to air the full segment tomorrow.
For the sake of his grieving family and friends, his child, and common decency, we hope to pressure Entertainment Tonight and The Insider to do the right thing and pull the spot. This is not journalism, it is sensationalism. It is a shameful exploitation of the lowest kind, to a talented and gentle soul, undeserving of such treatment.
We are asking the Hollywood community to pressure Entertainment Tonight to pull the segment. Please take action
so that Heath's family can grieve in peace. Please forward this message to everyone you know and ask them to personally call Linda Bell Blue at Entertainment Tonight and Brad Bessey at Paramount to express their outrage and request Entertainment Tonight to pull the distasteful spot. Their information is listed below.
Kelly Bush, who heads ID, told the AP that studio execs, movie stars and PR firms called the show to protest.
Faced with a backlash from the industry whose cooperation the show requires in a fiercely competitive niche, “ET” pulled the plug, citing respect for Ledger’s family, of course.
"I hope it represents a turning point," said Bush. "I think we have all heard from members of the media and members of the public that it's too much. Britney Spears and Paris Hilton are the top news stories when Darfur should be."
Not likely, but it’s a good example of PR stepping in to tell journalists to straighten up.