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Channel 4 says it will air Leaving Neverland this week, despite pressure from Michael Jackson’s family and fans

By | Published on Monday 4 March 2019

Michael Jackson

Channel 4 has said that it will go ahead with plans to air the Michael Jackson documentary ‘Leaving Neverland’ this week, despite pressure from the Jackson estate and fans of the musician.

The broadcaster noted that it has been “sent messages” by the estate and fans urging it to drop the film, which focuses on two men who claim they were abused by the late king of pop when they were children. However, a spokesperson for the broadcaster said: “There is no change in our commitment to airing the documentary”.

The first part of said documentary was broadcast in the US last night by HBO, which also resisted pressure to axe the programme, including legal action from the estate. The estate’s lawyers claim that HBO is in breach of a contract it signed in the 1990s when it aired one of Jackson’s live shows, and which barred it from airing any future programming disparaging of the singer.

As the first part of the film went out last night, the estate announced that recordings of two Jackson live shows had been taken out of the archive and would be made available on YouTube. That includes the show that was part of that 1992 contract recently cited by the estate, which was a performance in Bucharest and which is streaming now. A 1988 performance at Wembley Stadium will go live as part two of ‘Leaving Neverland’ airs on HBO tonight.

Channel 4 will show ‘Leaving Neverland’ at 9pm on Wednesday and Thursday night this week. It’s not yet clear if the Jackson estate plans further diversion tactics as it airs in the UK, or if it will continue to pressure the channel not to show the film at all.

Following renewed public interest in the abuse allegations made against Jackson in the film (none of which are actually new), BBC Radio 2 has reportedly stopped playing his music. According to The Times, the radio station has not played any solo tracks by Jackson for over a week.

A spokesperson for the BBC said in a statement: “We consider each piece of music on its merits and decisions on what we play on different networks are always made with relevant audiences and context in mind”.

US viewers can see the second part of the new documentary on HBO tonight at 8pm ET. Both parts are available to stream via the HBO website now.