U.S. popstar Michael Jackson performs during his "HIStory World Tour" concert in Vienna, July 2, 1997..
(photo credit: LEONHARD FOEGER / REUTERS)
The two-part HBO documentary, Leaving Neverland, has shaken the global music world with its detailed and disturbing allegations of child sexual abuse by pop legend Michael Jackson.
The jarring accusations – 10 years after Jackson’s death – have led many leading broadcasters to reevaluate playing his music. The Simpsons episode featuring the voice of the late singer was pulled from rotation, and some radio stations around the world – as well as individual DJs – have said they will pull his songs from their playlists. On Friday, Billboard reported that while sales of Jackson’s music dipped slightly following the documentary, streaming of his music increased modestly during the same period.
In Israel, the reaction among radio stations and DJs has been decidedly mixed.
Last week, Galgalatz, the most popular radio station in the country, said it would be reducing the amount it plays Jackson’s music, at least temporarily.
“Galgalatz has decided to decrease the amount his songs are played in the upcoming period,” the station said in a statement, “due to the emotions the film has stirred up. The decision will be revisited in several weeks.”
KAN, the Israeli public broadcaster which operates nine national radio stations, said on Sunday that it was leaving the decision up to its DJs.
“Music editors at KAN’s radio stations select songs according to their professional standards, as well as an awareness of the current mood and public sensitivity,” a spokeswoman told The Jerusalem Post. “KAN does not boycott any artist or musician.”
While the recent documentary has garnered intense reactions, the allegations are far from new. In the 1990s, Jackson was accused of child sexual abuse, and the singer ultimately settled the allegations out of court. In 2003, he was arrested and charged with seven counts of child molestation, and acquitted after a highly publicized trial.
NOY ALOOSHE, an Israeli music producer and host of a weekly Galgalatz show, said dropping Jackson’s songs now is the height of hypocrisy.
“I think it’s hypocritical to stop playing [his songs] when it’s based on a one-sided film that might show very convincing testimony, but it doesn’t allow the other side to respond,” Alooshe said on Sunday. “And in fact, the other side doesn’t have a way to respond. At the same time... I’m sure it’s hard for people – after watching the film – to hear [Jackson], but it is also hypocritical to boycott a dead artist while so many others have done as terrible things, and they are still listened to and praised.”
Alooshe said he wasn’t given any directive about playing Jackson’s song, though his weekly program focuses only on new music. The DJ – who gained fame for making YouTube remixes of speeches by politicians, including Muammar Gaddafi, Benjamin Netanyahu and Barack Obama – said the situation with living artists is different.
He referenced Chris Brown, who pleaded guilty in 2009 for assaulting his then-girlfriend Rihanna; and R. Kelly, who was indicted last month on 10 counts of aggravated sexual abuse after decades of allegations.
“If the artist is still alive or if there is definitive proof, there’s a reason not to play or to reduce their songs,” he said. “In the case of R. Kelly, he still hasn’t been convicted. In the case of Chris Brown, years have passed since the situation with Rihanna and I don’t have a problem playing his music today.”
But Yuval Ganor, the director of KAN Gimmel and the host of a weekly show devoted to 80s music on KAN 88, said the recent Jackson documentary had a huge impact on him.
“Michael Jackson is one of my favorite pop artists,” Ganor said Saturday evening at the end of his show. “Until these new testimonies were released, I never dreamed there could be anything that could cause me to not play Michael Jackson on my program.
“Stories of sexual crimes that Michael committed on children accompanied him all his life, but I personally didn’t believe they were true,” Ganor continued. “I thought that Michael was a damaged man, scratched, scarred and lonely, who was deep inside a small child, and that’s how he made special connections with children who came to the Neverland compound.”
But, Ganor said Saturday, after seeing the Leaving Neverland documentary, “I saw darkness in my eyes and felt chills all over my body... now every time I hear Michael Jackson’s voice I feel chills, and as the days pass I realize that I have no choice. I can no longer listen to or play his songs. I can’t physically do it.”
Ganor played Jackson’s “Heal the World” as a parting song at the end of his show on Saturday: “Farewell, Michael Jackson. Maybe one day we’ll be able to hear your awesome music again.”
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