Beckham saga reveals growing appetite for sex
Football star David Beckham's former personal assistant turned reputed lover Rebecca Loos is said to have been paid 500,000 pounds (750,000 euros, 900,000 dollars) for going public with her story.
If the figure turns out to be right, it would be one of the most expensive kiss-and-tell confessions in the history of chequebook journalism.
And experts say that the huge amount of money involved reveals the growing hunger in the fiercely competitive British media for celebrity sex and scandal.
During a high profile interview broadcast on the Sky One satellite channel Thursday night, Loos revealed all about her alleged affair with Beckham.
The England football captain, a former Manchester United star sold to Real Madrid for 25 million pounds last July, has been the target of press revelations for weeks, but has labelled the accusations "ludicrous".
According to press reports, Loos received 150,000 pounds for speaking to Sky, and up to 350,000 pounds for an earlier set of disclosures in the News of the World, Britain's best-selling tabloid newspaper.
"If this figure is true, it would be, I imagine, by a long way the most expensive deal" of its
type, Roy Greenslade, a media expert and former editor of the Daily Mirror tabloid newspaper,
A second woman who claims to have had an affair with Beckham, 29-year-old Malaysia-born model Sarah Marbeck, has also been in talks with British television channels for an interview that could be worth 500,000 pounds according to press reports.
In the 1980s, the now-extinct British tabloid newspaper Today paid "probably in the region of 175,000 pounds" for advance extracts from a book by singer Michael Jackson, according to Greenslade. At the time that was a huge amount.
Author Andrew Morton earned several hundred thousand pounds when he gave exclusive rights to the Sunday Times in 1992 to print extracts from his book on Princess Diana, Greenslade said.
In 2002, Princess Diana's former butler Paul Burrell sold his story for 300,000 pounds to the Daily Mirror, which then published excerpts from his controversial book "A Royal Duty."
Previously chequebook journalism was the realm of tabloid newspapers, but now television news channels are increasingly getting in on the act, according to Daily Mirror editor Piers Morgan.
The television world was in the past "relentlessly scathing, hypocritical and sanctimonious" about tabloid buy-ups, Morgan told the Independent newspaper this week.
Now, he said, television networks "have become competitors to us, having been relentlessly abusive to our methodology in the past."
With their new-found willingness to exercise their financial clout, rival groups such as media baron Rupert Murdoch's satellite broadcaster BSkyB, and Britain's independent ITV Plc, are raising the stakes.
The Tonight current affairs magazine programme on ITV offered 150,000 pounds for an interview with Rina Attard, the mother of Siamese twins born in 2000 who were separated in a controversial operation after which one of the sisters died.
In 1999, Britain's Channel 4 topped the bidding for an exclusive interview with Monica Lewinsky about her relationship with then US President Bill Clinton. It is believed to have cost the station 400,000 pounds.
"The British are an immature race in this matter of sex," said Greenslade. But for the media, paying out huge sums appears to bring results.
Thursday's interview with Loos on Sky detailing her alleged affair with Beckham was watched by more than two million viewers, and was one of the station's all-time top 10 hits in terms of ratings, according to Britain's domestic news agency, the Press Association.