Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) has backed down on its controversial decision to remove the late Michael Jackson’s music from its play lists. NRK still plans to air a documentary about Jackson’s alleged sexual assaults on boys, but claims it is listening to its critics.
NRK announced on Monday that it would not be playing any of Michael Jackson’s songs on its P1, P13 and P1+ radio stations for two weeks, beginning on March 8. Nor would any Jackson music be featured on NRK’s TV channels.
The decision was based on allegations in the HBO documentary Leaving Neverland that Jackson assaulted two boys at his “Neverland” ranch in California when they were just seven and 10 years ago. NRK plans to air the documentary next Sunday evening, and decided to ban Jackson’s music out of consideration “to folks’ feelings” just before and after the documentary airs.
The documentary itself has sparked strong protests from Jackson’s family and fans worldwide, with HBO and others behind the documentary facing legal action and attempts to halt it.
NRK still plans to air it nationwide in Norway, but NRK chief Thor Gjermund Eriksen announced Tuesday that the decision to remove Jackson’s music from playlists would be reversed. Eriksen’s overriding decision comes after a storm of protests and criticism against NRK and especially the state broadcaster’s music chief, Knut Henrik Ytre-Arne. He had gone so far as to suggest that Jackson’s music might never be played again.
“I don’t view this as a very big issue, but the deicsion that was made yesterday (to pull Jackson songs off NRK playlists) was wrong,” Eriksen said. “We’re going to reverse it. We have to separate the art from the artist.”
Eriksen added that NRK strives to be careful and not publish content “that’s not appropriate together.” That’s what Ytre-Arne had claimed was behind his decision that Eriksen has now overturned.
“We won’t issue a general ban on playing Michael Jackson songs over the next few weeks,” Eriksen said. He said he had not been involved in the decision made by Ytre-Arne that caused such a flap on Monday: “This is an organization with 3,400 employees … now and then we make some wrong decisions.”
He agreed with critics, including the leader of the Michael Jackson Fan Club in Norway, who claimed NRK seemed to have determined that Michael Jackson was a pedophile and that the allegations against him were true. Eriksen denied either was the case, adding that it was difficult to defend the music ban on principle: “It gave the impression we’re taking a position on Michael Jackson’s guilt, which we’re not,” Eriksen said. “Moreover, it gave the impression that we’re boycotting Jackson’s music, which we’re not.”