Ten years after his death, the unquestionable King of Pop Michael Jackson has started making headlines again in the wake of a new controversial documentary on his sexual abuse allegations. As a result, radio stations all around the world are reportedly pulling his songs from their playlists… but what is the situation like back in Malta?
Debuting at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, Leaving Neverland chronicles the story of two young boys and their supposed relationship with the late legend. Breaking down seemingly innocent relationship, the two boys – now in their 30s – describe how they were sexually abused by Jackson and how they’ve had to come to terms with their abuse.
CNN noted that several radio stations in Canada and New Zealand have completely dropped Michael Jackson from rotation, following moves by radio giants like MediaWorks
A network of nine radio formats on 190 frequencies all throughout New Zealand, MediaWorks is the number one radio network in the country, with over two million listeners every single week.
“Michael Jackson isn’t currently on any MediaWorks Radio stations’ playlists,” MediaWorks radio director Leon Wratt said in an official statement. “This is a reflection of our audiences and their preferences — it is our job to ensure our radio stations are playing the music people want to hear.”
In Canada, three separate Montreal radio stations have also removed Michael Jackson songs from their rotations, and other companies in the company are reportedly “currently keeping a tab on the situation to see how it develops”.
Reports have also come in of numerous street protests, museums considering removing Michael Jackson memorabilia from their collections, and an ongoing rumour BBC is trying to quash of its radio stations enforcing similar bans as their counterparts in New Zealand and Canada.
In an official response, the Jackson Estates has moved forward with a lawsuit against broadcasting giants HBO, lambasting the documentary as “public lynching” and “tabloid character assassination”.
Amidst global furore and endless media coverage, what does the situation in Malta look like?
“We cannot really imagine a world without Michael Jackson’s music” – Johnathan Abel, Tina Zammit and JD Patrick
Lovin Malta reached out to some of the most prominent names in the island’s radio industry to see what they made of the whole situation, and whether this could mark the beginning of the end for Michael Jackson songs on Maltese radio stations.
“We all agree that Michael Jackson’s contribution to the music industry cannot really be erased,” VIBE FM morning team Johnathan Abel, Tina Zammit and JD Patrick said in a joint statement. “We cannot really imagine a world without Michael Jackson’s music. Keeping in mind that there are three sides to the story – his side, their side and the truth – these are only allegations so far.”
“Without having seen the documentary or any proof that conclusively shows MJ’s guilt, we reserve all judgement,” XFM dynamic duo Oz and Jay continued. “Innocent until proven guilty… except in the media.”
“What cannot be denied is that undoubtedly Michael Jackson was one of the greatest musical talents of the last decade,” fellow XFM radio host Trudy Kerr told Lovin Malta. “He himself was a childhood star and paid a heavy price for his success. This absolutely does not excuse his behaviour towards innocent young children, sadly however, as is so frequently the case over recent years, celebrities, personalities and artists are being posthumously exposed for activities that were evident at the time – and to which media and society was turning a blind eye. Now, years later, it can be difficult to evaluate the motive for returning to the events, and the actions taken by media, to determine whether this is a genuine reaction to the news, or a guilt offering for not having acted sooner. The most important outcome is the wellbeing of the victims.
Trudy Kerr from XFM
“It’s not like you can just forget Thriller, Billy Jean or Smooth Criminal ever existed. If this is all true… we’d have to” – Nate Darmanin
“Rumours about MJ’s behaviour towards children have been rife since the 80s and 90s,” Nate Darmanin started. “Musically, he was a genius without any shadow of a doubt, but I always questioned his personality for some reason. Unfortunately, since MJ is such a big profile, many are going to be in denial about the whole situation – in our eyes he’s superhuman, he can do no wrong. It’s sad to hear that radio stations are banning his music though… It’s not like you can just forget Thriller, Billy Jean or Smooth Criminal ever existed. (If this is all true… we’d have to)”
“Reading about other stations banning MJ music leaves me wondering whether we should do the same” – Frank Zammit
“I’ve been scratching my head and wondering what i make of all this,” DJ and personality Frank Zammit told Lovin Malta. “The truth is MJ was already proven innocent before new allegations resurfaced, and it’s sad to see such an icon being portrayed like this, especially now that he is not around to rebut any of it.”
“Reading about other stations banning MJ music leaves me wondering whether we should do the same,” Frank continued. “Luckily, we have no MJ songs in our playlist at the moment so that buys us some time to make our minds up, but it’s going to be a very difficult bridge to cross when we get to it. Having said all that, no matter how difficult it might seem to take such a stand, a strong message needs to be sent out with regards to this sort of abuse, no exceptions. Nobody, absolutely nobody, should be allowed to get away with it.”
“This is something we’ve already done with R. Kelly across our stations” – Daniel Testa
89.7 Bay’s Daniel Testa had an arguably stronger stance, echoing a similar controversy involving popular musicians and sexual abuse allegations.
“Michael Jackson is not an artist we would generally play on Bay, but removing all songs would be something we would highly consider on our sister stations Bay Easy and Bay Retro, should the case develop further,” Daniel told Lovin Malta. “This is something we’ve already done with R. Kelly across our stations.”