Michael Jackson's music has been banned from some radio stations following 'Leaving Neverland' documentary
The 'Leaving Neverland' documentary aired on Sunday on HBO, giving viewers insight into exactly what those at the Sundance Film Festival had found so harrowing earlier this year. The four-hour documentary features extensive interviews with James Safechuck and Wade Robson, in which they accuse the late musician of molesting them and others when they were young.
Since the documentary started making waves, both men have appeared on Oprah Winfrey to share their story. “Michael drilled in you, ‘If you’re caught, we’re caught, your life is over, my life is over,’” Safechuck told Oprah. “It’s repeated over and over again, it’s drilled into your nervous system. It takes a lot of work to sort through that.”
Robson, Safechuck, and the film's director, Dan Reed, have also been the target of countless death threats since they started publicising the documentary. The Jackson estate are seeking to sue HBO, Jermaine Jackson claimed they were just in it for the money, and Corey Feldman defended the pop star. However, the backlash hasn't all been directed at those involved with the documentary, as a number of radio stations are reportedly not playing Jackson's music.
In New Zealand, state-owned station RNZ stated that they do not currently play the artist as part of their regular rotation. MediaWorks, which runs nine major stations in the country, also stated that they had pulled the songs as "a reflection of our audiences and their preferences". On NZME, director Buchanan explained that "playlists change from week to week and right now Michael Jackson does not feature on them:".
Meanwhile, three major Canadian stations have also followed suit. Cogeco Media, which owns these stations as well as 23 smaller stations across the country, spoke to Variety about the decision. A spokesman told them:
"We are attentive to the comments of our listeners, and the documentary released on Sunday evening created reactions. We prefer to observe the situation by removing the songs from our stations, for the time being."
A spokesperson for Corus Radio said that they "currently have no plans to pull the songs but are monitoring the situation closely," while others may follow Cogeco Media in this direction.
Reports that some stations, including BBC Radio 2, had banned Jackson's music, have not been confirmed. "We consider each piece of music on its merits and decisions on what we play on different networks are always made with relevant audiences and context in mind," a representative from the BBC told Variety on Monday.
Leon Wratt, content director at the MediaWorks Group, told MagicFM:
"The audience has always been pretty split over Michael […] you’ve got 500 songs on a playlist and you have to make the decisions which 500 are the ones people will want to listen to.
"We aren't deciding whether Michael Jackson is guilty of paedophilia, we're just making sure our radio stations are going to play the music people want to hear."
The director of the Leaving Neverland documentary has made his stance on the issue clear. “People will have to listen to his music in the knowledge that he was a prolific child rapist," he told the Telegraph. "If they’re comfortable doing that, fine. If they’re not, well perhaps listen to something else for a while."