Tuesday 19 March 2019

RTÉ changes stance on Michael Jackson with 'no plans to playlist his music at this time'

Singer Michael Jackson in 2005. AP Photo
Singer Michael Jackson in 2005. AP Photo
Aoife Kelly

Aoife Kelly

RTÉ has changed its stance on playing the music of Michael Jackson.

Radio stations around the world are banning the late singer's music in the wake of allegations of sexual abuse levelled at Jackson in controversial HBO documentary Leaving Neverland.

The first half of the documentary aired in the UK and Ireland last night and will conclude tonight.

RTE yesterday stated that Jackson's music did not feature on the 2FM playlist and that Radio 1 presenters were free to choose their own music for individual shows.

However, the State broadcaster has today changed its stance.

An RTE statement reads, "As listeners may find the playing of Michael Jackson's music insensitive, RTÉ has no plans to playlist his music at this time."

Leaving Neverland details alleged sexual abuse by Jackson on two boys.

James Safechuck (40) and Wade Robson (36) allege that they were groomed, sexually assaulted and raped by the singer over a number of years.

Since the documentary was first broadcast in the US, major radio stations in Canada and New Zealand and individual DJs have moved to remove his songs from their playlists.

Earlier this week three major Montreal radio stations revealed they have stopped playing Jackson's music.

Last week, the 'Times' reported that BBC Radio 2 had banned Jackson's music, with the last song played on the station on February 23. The BBC has clarified that they do not ban artists and Jackson could be played on BBC Radio.

He does not feature on the BBC Radio 2 playlist because it is for new releases.

"We consider each piece of music on its merits," said a spokesperson for the BBC.

"And decisions on what we play on different networks are always made with relevant audiences and context in mind."

In recent weeks, Michael Jackson, The Jacksons and The Jackson 5 have been played on Radio 2 and Michael Jackson has been played elsewhere on BBC Radio in recent days.

The Jackson family has accused Robson and Safechuck of lying and being motivated by money.

Taj Jackson, a nephew of Michael and a spokesman for the family, told RTÉ's 'Today with Sean O'Rourke' that his late uncle was innocent.

"You know your family. I spent thousands of hours with my uncle Michael... I wouldn't have flown to the UK to defend him if I thought for one instant that he was guilty," he said.

Referring to sleepovers in Jackson's home at Neverland Ranch, he said his uncle would sleep on the floor.

"It wasn't only boys, it was girls, it was cousins, it was everyone...but also my uncle would give them the bed and he'd sleep on the floor.

"I know what it sounds like, I'm not oblivious to what it sounds like," he added.

Mr Jackson said the two accusers have every reason to get the court of public opinion on their side having sued the singer's estate for hundreds of millions of dollars and they have an appeal happening this year.

He said the documentary gave a very one-sided story and "we didn't get our side".

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