Michael Jackson Dropped From Some Radio Stations Following Child Sex Abuse Doc
Allegations of child sexual abuse have dogged Michael Jackson for decades, but the late pop star is facing new scrutiny this year due to Leaving Neverland, an HBO documentary chronicling the experiences of two alleged victims. (A second documentary is coming later this year via the BBC.) It looks like that increased attention on the allegations has resulted in at least one tangible consequence: Some radio stations around the world have begun pulling Jackson’s music.
The Canadian Press reports that the Quebec radio network Cogeco pulled Jackson from 23 stations. Meanwhile, the BBC denied to Variety that it had banned Jackson’s music after the Times of London reported that the British broadcasting giant had “quietly dropped” Jackson from their playlists ahead of Leaving Neverland’s release. And in New Zealand, as the New York Times reports, the nation’s two largest radio networks announced today they were banning Jackson’s music due to backlash from the documentary, a move that essentially erases Jackson from the radio in that country.
As the NYT points out, Leon Wratt, the content director for New Zealand radio network MediaWorks, gave an interview on Magic, one of the company’s stations, explaining the rationale. “We aren’t deciding whether Michael Jackson is guilty of pedophilia or not,” Wratt said. “We’re just merely trying to make sure that our radio stations are going to play the music that people want to hear.” Dean Buchanan, a spokesman for NZME, the other major New Zealand radio network, told the NYT over email that the company’s stations aren’t playing Jackson “right now.”
Neither New Zealand network answered questions about how long the bans would last and whether they would seek to remove other artists accused of misconduct, such as R. Kelly. Spotify faced backlash last year after removing Kelly and the late XXXTentacion from playlists, ultimately deciding to reverse the decision after outcry from artists including Kendrick Lamar, who threatened to remove his music from the service over censorship concerns. Speaking to Billboard at the time, Kendrick’s label head, Anthony Tiffith, raised questions about arbitrary enforcement: “How come they didn’t pick out any others from any other genres or any other different cultures?”
Jackson’s estate has sued HBO over the documentary and is seeking $100 million in damages.