Radio stations around the world are dropping Michael Jackson from their playlists, amid debate around the controversial documentary Leaving Neverland.
In the two-part film, which has aired on HBO in the US and is set to air on Channel 4 in the UK on 6 March at 9 pm, Wade Robson and James Safechuck accuse Jackson of sexually abusing them as children over a period of several years.
Jackson’s estate has branded the film a “public lynching” and accused Safechuck and Robson of being “opportunists”. The estate is seeking $100m in damages from HBO over the documentary, which Howard Weitzman, the estate’s lawyer, called a “disgrace”.
However, the public response to the documentary is leading several radio stations to stop playing Jackson’s music. New Zealand stations have almost entirely removed the singer’s work from their playlists after two of the country’s largest networks – which own most of its commercial stations – said they would no longer play Jackson’s songs.
“Michael Jackson isn’t currently on any MediaWorks Radio stations’ playlists,” company director for radio Leon Wratt said in a statement. “This is a reflection of our audiences and their preferences – it is our job to ensure our radio stations are playing the music people want to hear.”
A spokesperson for Radio NZ told CNN that it would only play Jackson if it was “part of a news story or to provide color around a commentary piece”.
Four major stations in Canada have also stopped playing Jackson’s music, including three in Montreal and one in Quebec.
In the UK, the BBC denied imposing such a ban after Variety reported that Jackson’s music had been “quietly dropped” from one of its stations.
Neither NZME nor MediaWorks responded to questions about how long the ban would last, what date it began, or whether the networks planned to pull the songs of other musicians accused of wrongdoing, such as R. Kelly, who has been accused of and denies, decades of serial misconduct.
Mr. Wratt, the MediaWorks spokesman, said Jackson’s music would still be available on streaming services and in record stores for anyone who wanted to hear it.
“The difference with radio, of course, is that if we play if you don’t have a choice,” he said.
This is not the first time radio stations and streaming services have wrestled with whether to remove the music of artists accused of misconduct: Spotify last May instituted a policy of ceasing to promote or recommend R. Kelly’s music because of the accusations against him, though it rescinded the policy a month later after uproar from some in the music industry.
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