A local radio network has removed Michael Jackson’s back catalogue from the airwaves, as Australians prepare for a televised documentary that revisits sexual abuse allegations levelled against the pop giant.
NOVA Entertainment Group, which manages stations including Nova and smoothfm, has chosen to censor Jackson’s greatest hits ranging from Smooth Criminal to Remember the Time.
The backlash has spread globally, with similar moves in New Zealand and Canada, and a statue of Jackson also being removed from Britain’s National Football Museum in Manchester.
NOVA’s program director Paul Jackson says the network’s decision is a direct result of the documentary.
“The decisions we make about the music we play on any of our stations are dependent on the relevance to the audience and the current context,” he said.
“In light of what is happening at the moment, smoothfm is not currently playing any Michael Jackson songs.”
Leaving Neverland, the controversial documentary that details sexual abuse claims by James Safechuck and Australian-born choreographer Wade Robson, is set to air locally over the weekend.
But in spite of the controversial developments, NOVA is alone in its decision.
Australian Radio Network (ARN), which manages brands including Gold, KIIS and iHeartRadio, told The New Daily it has no plans for a temporary ban, but said audience anger may lead to action.
“Some radio stations and streaming services around the world are being asked if they plan on removing Michael Jackson’s music from their playlists, based on the allegations raised in Leaving Neverland,” an ARN spokesperson said.
“As always, ARN will continue to regularly review our playlists based on what audiences want to hear, as well as closely monitoring audience sentiment in relation to individual artists.”
Southern Cross Austereo (FoxFM and Triple M) did not respond to The New Daily‘s request for comment, however a spokesperson told The Sydney Morning Herald it intends to continue playing Jackson’s hits as “these remain allegations”.
What are the allegations against Jackson
The controversial four-hour, two-part investigation has revived questions around whether the King of Pop engaged in predatory behaviour.
The two alleged victims at the centre of the documentary accused the singer of abusing them when they were children at his Neverland ranch.
Choreographer Robson, originally from Queensland, alleged Jackson sexually abused him after his “magical” first visit to the ranch as a seven-year-old.
Safechuck claimed the pop star’s aura made their relationship initially feel “magical”.
— billboard (@billboard) March 4, 2019
Throughout the documentary, they describe a series of alleged incidents with strikingly similar detail, and indicate alleged threats levelled at them by Jackson if they spoke out.
Both had previously denied any incidents, with Robson testifying as such at Jackson’s 2005 trial, where he was eventually acquitted of child molestation and other charges.
Jackson’s family discounted the new allegations as a “public lynching”, and his estate began legal proceedings against US cable network HBO in February, claiming the documentary was a “rehash of dated and discredited allegations”.
This Michael Jackson doc is a very hard watch but damn is it important. We have to see this so we can learn from this as a fame obsessed culture that easily ignores things so they can happen & continues to ignore things just so you can dance to certain gd songs. #LeavingNeverland
— Stephanie Mickus (@smickable) March 4, 2019
Overseas stations led the way
Nova’s action follows similar actions of dozens of radio stations globally.
Radio stations in New Zealand and Canada dropped the late pop star after the documentary was broadcast in the United States and the UK earlier this week.
In New Zealand, stations beaming out to more than half the country’s population have acted against the freshly aired allegations.
Public broadcaster Radio New Zealand said “editorial judgement” dictated its decision to ditch his hits.
Wow – Michael Jackson’s music no longer to be played on Mediaworks radio stations
— wallacechapman (@wallacelchapman) March 5, 2019
Its commercial rival Mediaworks, the owner of nine stations, said their choice to blacklist Jackson was “a reflection of our audiences and their preferences”.
Canadian networks also followed suit, with three of the country’s major stations choosing to withdraw Jackson’s repertoire.