Cogeco has pulled Michael Jackson from its radio station playlists, including Montreal stations Rythme FM (CFGL-FM), 96.9 CKOI-FM and The Beat 92.6 (CKBE-FM), following the airing of controversial HBO documentary Leaving Neverland.
The two-part documentary, which made its television premiere Sunday and Monday night, features two men, Wade Robson and James Safechuck, who allege they were sexually abused by the pop star as children.
“We are attentive to the comments of our listeners, and the documentary released on Sunday evening created reactions,” said Christine Dicaire, Cogeco’s director of marketing and communications, in an emailed statement provided to Broadcast Dialogue. “We prefer to observe the situation by removing the songs from our stations, for the time being.”
Thus far, no other Canadian media networks have followed Cogeco’s lead. Cogeco owns a total of 23 radio stations in Quebec and Ontario.
The Jackson family condemned the film as a “public lynching” following its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in January. Wade Robson previously testified in both 1993 and 2005, that Jackson did not abuse him. Both he and Safechuck have filed lawsuits against the Jackson estate that were dismissed and now awaiting appeal.
The film’s credibility has been given a boost by the support of Oprah Winfrey, who hosted hour-long special Oprah Winfrey Presents: After Neverland, following the documentary’s conclusion Monday evening. Winfrey interviewed Robson, Safechuck and filmmaker Dan Reed in front of a studio audience made up of sexual abuse survivors and their families.
In the special, Winfrey – a sexual abuse survivor herself – said the issue transcends Michael Jackson, illustrating how child sexual abuse is so often about seduction.
“The story is bigger than, as I said in the beginning, it’s bigger than any one person,” Winfrey asserted during the special. “And don’t let any person in your world make it just about what Michael Jackson did or did not do. It’s about this thing, this insidious pattern, that’s happening in our culture that we refuse to look at.”