Radio stations in Quebec and New Zealand have pulled Michael Jackson’s music from their broadcasts following the release of a new documentary about two men who claim they were sexually abused by the singer.
Leaving Neverland aired on March 3 and 4 on HBO after premiering at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival on Jan. 25.
The film centres around Wade Robson and Jimmy Safechuck, two men who allege Jackson sexually abused them at his home, Neverland Ranch, in California in the 1990s when the boys were seven and 10 years old.
In separate interviews, Robson and Safechuck tell of how they and their families befriended the star and were invited into his home.
While the Jackson estate has responded to the film by filing a $100 million lawsuit against HBO, three major radio stations in Montreal have responded by pulling Jackson’s music off the air.
As CBC reported on March 5, a spokesperson for Cogeco, the company that owns French-language stations CKOI and Rhythme and English-language station The Beat, said the stations pulled Jackson’s music Monday morning.
“We are attentive to listeners’ comments, and last night’s documentary created reactions,” Christine Dicaire, director of marketing and communications for Cogeco, said in a statement about the film.
The company’s decision will also apply to its stations in smaller markets, affecting 23 stations in all.
Such reactions haven’t always followed assault claims against recording artists. Radio stations in Canada still play R. Kelly’s music despite decades-spanning accounts of his alleged predatory behaviour and mental and sexual abuse against women.
In a 2017 article for ESPN, written years before the release of the documentary film Surviving R. Kelly, culture critic Soraya McDonald said the music industry had been complicit in allowing R. Kelly’s career to flourish despite the allegations.
With Chris Brown, the immediate reaction was somewhat different.
Shortly after Brown turned himself in to police for assaulting then-girlfriend Rihanna in 2009, several North American radio stations pulled his music and he was replaced by Justin Timberlake and Al Green in an appearance at the 2009 Grammys.
Since then, however, Brown has released six studio albums, several of which reached top spots on U.S. charts.
Then there’s Nate Parker.
The controversy left moviegoers and culture critics divided on whether or not to boycott the film, which tells the story of black slave liberation in the Antebellum south.
Some argued, among other things, that accusations of rape against the director were at odds with a film that prominently featured enslaved black female characters fighting for their freedom. They chose to boycott the film. Others argued it is possible, and sometimes necessary, to separate the art from the artist.
So what should radio stations in Canada do in light of the release of Leaving Neverland? Make a statement by pulling Michael Jackson’s music from the air, or separate the art from the artist by letting it play?
Let us know by voting in our poll above, or have your say in the comments below.