Channel 4 rejects Michael Jackson estate complaint over documentary

Michael Jackson Image copyright PA
Image caption Michael Jackson, pictured in 1999, died in 2009 at the age of 50

Channel 4 is to air a controversial documentary about Michael Jackson, despite receiving a letter of complaint from the late singer’s estate.

Leaving Neverland focuses on two men who claim the pop superstar abused them when they were children.

The family of the late singer have asked the broadcaster not to show it, saying the film-makers did not ask them for a response to the allegations.

In a statement, Channel 4 said it had followed the right response procedure.

“Channel 4 viewers will make their own judgement about the testimony of the two victims interviewed in the film,” it said.

In the letter, which was released to the Associated Press, the Jackson estate claimed the documentary’s makers broke programming guidelines by failing to get a response from the singer’s family and friends.

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

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

A similar letter was also sent to US broadcaster HBO, which co-produced the documentary.

Jackson denials

Leaving Neverland will be broadcast on Channel 4 on 6 and 7 March.

It includes interviews with Wade Robson and James Safechuck, who were aged seven and 10 when the singer befriended them and their families.

Mr Robson acted as a main witness for Michael Jackson at his 2005 trial, but has now changed his story.

Channel 4 said the film does include a response to the allegations in the form of footage of Jackson’s own denials.

“The documentary deals with the criminal trials and civil court cases and any involvement our principal interviewees had in those,” the broadcaster’s statement said.

“It is not unusual for victims of child sex abuse to only feel able to disclose what happened to them in later life.”

The documentary, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival last month, has also been defended by its director, Dan Reed.

“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,” he said.

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