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Michael Jackson’s Music Has Not Been Banned by the BBC

UPDATED: Contrary to a report that apparently originated with British publication The Times, a rep for the BBC tells Variety that the network, and specifically BBC2 Radio, has not banned or dropped Michael Jackson’s music in the wake of the blockbuster documentary “Leaving Neverland,” which premiered on HBO Sunday night and will begin airing on Britain’s Channel 4 on Wednesday.

“The BBC does not ban artists,” the rep said. “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,” she said, adding that BBC2’s playlists focus on new artists and thus music from Jackson, who died of an accidental drug overdose in 2009, does not apply (the most recent posthumous album was released in 2014).

Another BBC rep noted, “Michael Jackson was just played on one of our stations today.”

The Times reported Sunday that the late singer’s music had been “quietly dropped” from the station in advance of the documentary’s airing.

In the U.S., the second-largest radio network, Cumulus, deferred any such decision to individual stations. “Cumulus Media is never in favor of censorship,” the rep said. “This is a local market decision where the company is allowing local Program Directors to make the right decision regarding airplay for their communities.” A rep for iHeartRadio, the country’s largest radio network, declined Variety‘s request for comment; the same is true of Spotify and Apple Music, the two largest streaming services in the U.S.

The lack of comment is possibly related in part to the fierce wave of criticism Spotify received when it instituted a policy against “hateful conduct” by artists last year, in which artists would be banned from its official playlists. That policy was directed at R. Kelly and XXXTentacion — neither of whom had been convicted of any crimes at the time — before the streaming service quickly pulled back from the policy, although Kelly’s music does not appear to have returned to official Spotify playlists.

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