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Posted February 12, 2019 00:47:31

The Michael Jackson estate has attacked the UK’s Channel 4, warning that a documentary on two men who accuse the singer of molesting them as boys violates the broadcaster’s guidelines.

Key points:

  • Jackson’s estate said no-one from his camp was asked for comment
  • Channel 4 included a series of Jackson’s denials during his lifetime
  • The film’s director says the focus on Jackson’s accusers was intentional

The letter written by estate lawyer Howard Weitzman said Leaving Neverland, set to air in early March, makes no attempt at getting a response to the accusers from Jackson’s estate, family, friends or others who have defended his reputation, as required by the channel’s standards for factual programming and basic journalistic ethics.

The letter cites a section of the publicly available guidelines that state if a show makes “significant allegations” then “those concerned should be given an appropriate and timely opportunity to respond”.

“I think we can all agree that the false allegations being made in your ‘documentary’ are ‘significant allegations’,” the letter read.

“It is hard to imagine more significant accusations that can possibly be made against anyone.”

But no-one was asked to respond, the letter states.

“This includes persons mentioned by name in your ‘documentary’ as having ‘replaced’ Wade Robson and James Safechuck as Jackson’s supposed victims of abuse,” it read.

“Those named persons eloquently and publicly deny ever being abused.”

Channel 4 said in a statement that the allegations against Jackson are rebutted in the documentary by denials that the performer made during his lifetime.

It said the broadcast meets Britain’s official broadcasting code by providing these denials.

“On this occasion the person against whom the significant allegations are being made is deceased. It is therefore appropriate that his denials during life are included in the program,” the station said.

Lens turned away from Jackson is intentional

The film’s director, Dan Reed, has addressed the criticism from the estate previously, saying in a statement that his focus on the accusers is intentional.

“Anyone who sees the film will know it is solely about hearing the stories of two specific individuals and their families in their own words, and that is a focus we are very proud of,” Mr Reed said.

The three-page document from the estate echoes a longer letter the estate sent to US broadcaster HBO, calling the allegations from the accusers “disgraceful” and urging investigation of the men’s backgrounds.

A copy of the HBO letter was included with the Channel 4 letter and applies just as much to the UK station, the letter states.

The two channels co-produced the documentary account of how the two men’s lives intersected with Jackson’s when they were kids at the height of his fame, and how the trauma of what they say happened in their youth started to emerge in their adult life.

Its premiere last month at the Sundance Film Festival was met with protests from Jackson fans, though Mr Robson and Mr Safechuck got a standing ovation by audiences after its screening.

Both had previously told authorities Jackson did not molest them, with Mr Robson testifying as much in Jackson’s 2005 trial, in which he was acquitted of molesting another boy.

Both men later filed lawsuits that were dismissed and are currently on appeal.

Jackson died in 2009.

AP

Topics: music, child-abuse, sexual-offences, media, united-kingdom, united-states

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