New Michael Jackson controversy poses dilemma for radio stations and museum

An upcoming 'King of Pop' exhibition in Espoo shines a light on accusations made in a documentary about the late singer.

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'An Illuminating Path' 1998 by David LaChappell / Credit: EMMA

Startling new allegations that singer Michael Jackson sexually abused young boys have prompted calls for radio stations and streaming services not to play any of his music.

It’s also giving pause for thought to one Finnish museum which has an exhibit about Jackson set to open at the end of summer.

The accusations come in a new four hour documentary called ‘Leaving Neverland’ on HBO in America, where two men lay out in stark detail the circumstances in which they say the ‘King of Pop’ sexually abused them.

However, the documentary can’t yet be seen in Finland.

“Unfortunately this documentary will not become available on HBO Nordic streaming service. HBO doesn’t own the international distribution rights for this and therefore we won’t have it” explains Nina Palmroos, Vice President of PR and Marketing at HBO Nordic.

While Finnish audiences can’t see ‘Finding Neverland’ at this time, the controversy is shining a light on an upcoming Michael Jackson-themed exhibit at Espoo Museum of Modern Art EMMA.

The exhibition, which opened in London in 2018 and has toured in Paris and Berlin, comes to Espoo in August. It brings together work from dozens of artists inspired by Micheal Jackson and his career.

“We are actively following the discussion regarding Leaving Neverland documentary” says EMMA’s Asta Teräväinen, who explains that due to EMMA’s large exhibition space, there will be even more artworks on display that in other cities.

“As a museum, we want to be open and discuss even difficult topics. We condemn pedophilia and the accusations presented in the documentary are shocking” she says.

EMMA tells News Now Finland that Jackson is the “most depicted cultural figure in contemporary art despite the many contradictory features, yet his influence on art history is an untold story”.

“The exhibition is not celebratory and its aim is not to put him on a pedestal. The exhibition with its many themes provides an educational opportunity to converse on the downsides of stardom and the idol culture. At the same time, the artists in the show discuss issues concerning race, equality, gender and celebrity culture in general” says Teräväinen in a statement.

Michael Jackson by Andy Warhol 1984 / Credit: EMMA

Radio stations consider Jackson ban

There have been widespread calls in other countries for Michael Jackson’s music to be banned from radio play lists, in light of the ‘Finding Neverland’ accusations.

Finnish radio stations are still playing his music, but it wasn’t in in heavy rotation during recent years.

“We haven’t played Michael Jackson very much lately, not because of the documentary, but because the audience does not respond to it” explains Oku Luukkainen from Radio Nova.

Luukkainen says that station management makes the decisions on what music to play, from controversial artists, on a case-by-case basis. He recalls an incident in Finland where a domestic artist was dropped by some radio stations after appearing to be caught up in the sex crimes scandal of another entertainer.

“If you ask my idea of the music we are playing, we should not play music which puts people in a bad mood or there are some issues with the artist that makes people turn away from our station” says Luukkainen.