When the HBO’s Leaving Neverland aired, the allegations put forward in the four-hour two-part documentary started a ripple effect that is still spreading across radio stations around the world.
The documentary aired in the United States on Sunday although it had premiered earlier at the Sundance Film Festival. In it, Wade Robson and James Safechuck claimed that the late King of Pop abused them when they were aged seven and ten respectively.
In reaction, radio stations have started to not play Michael Jackson’s songs and Australian, Canadian, and New Zealand radio stations are just the latest to follow the trend.
Although the documentary still hasn’t aired in Australia, Sydney’s Nova Entertainment announced on Thursday that they are pulling Jackson’s songs off the air in response to public opinion.
Nova’s program director Paul Jackson was quoted by local media as saying, “In light of what is happening at the moment, SmoothFM is not currently playing any Michael Jackson songs.”
ARN, another major Australian radio network, said it was “closely monitoring audience sentiment in relation to individual artists.”
And in New Zealand, the two major companies that dominate commercial radio in the country, MediaWorks and NZME, have stopped playing Jackson’s songs.
MediaWorks director of content Leon Wratt told Magic FM, “We aren’t deciding whether Michael Jackson is guilty of pedophilia, we’re just making sure our radio stations are going to play the music people want to hear.”
According to him, the decision was “a reflection of our audiences and their preferences.”
Dean Buchanan, NZME group director of entertainment, confirmed the move to pull Jackson’s material from the air although avoided talk of a ban.
A major radio station in Quebec and Ontario also decided to stop playing Jackson’s songs in its 23 stations which affect around five million listeners.
A spokeswoman told CTV: “We are attentive to listeners’ comments, and last night’s documentary created reactions.”
The Times also claimed that BBC Radio 2 quietly pulled out Jackson’s songs although the network later denied this, saying that they do not ban artists.
The documentary has reignited burning questions about Jackson’s relationship with children, a question that has hounded the singer for the longest time. Although there have been many rumors, none have been substantiated.
However, the allegations in the film were so shocking that counselors were on hand for traumatized viewers.
But Jackson’s estate has denied any wrongdoing and filed a $100 million lawsuit against HBO.
In the 53-page complaint that was filed at the Los Angeles Superior court, it alleged that HBO violated a “non-disparagement” agreement when it aired the documentary.
“Ten years after his passing, there are still those out to profit from his enormous worldwide success and take advantage of his eccentricities,” went the suit.
The wave of stations refusing to play Jackson’s music can only tarnish his brand further and negatively affect radio royalties. However, listeners on digital platforms don’t seem to be abandoning the singer in the same way as “The Essential Michael Jackson” is still the 65th most downloaded album in Australia.
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