NBC’s “Dateline” paid a civilian watchdog group more than $100,000 to create a pedophile sting operation that the network will feature next month, reports the Washington Post. As part of the sting, the network also went along with police officials’ deputizing of the group’s members, in effect turning “Dateline’s” made-for-TV operation into a law-enforcement action. The segments, taped last month in Ohio, have prompted news media observers and others to question NBC’s methods and criticize its practices.
Since 2004, “Dateline” has aired three reports in the sting operation series. The newsmagazine worked with a Portland, Ore., group called Perverted Justice, whose volunteer members pose as young boys and girls in Internet chat rooms and wait to be contacted by adult men seeking sex with minors. The volunteers lure the men to a house rented by NBC, where they are caught on hidden cameras and confronted by a “Dateline” reporter. “Dateline” paid Perverted Justice nothing to stage stings in Fairfax County, Long Island, N.Y., and Riverside, Calif. But after the first three “Dateline” stings each drew more than 8 million viewers, Perverted Justice hired an agent to negotiate with the network. NBC sources said Perverted Justice received compensation in the low six figures for its role in Ohio.