LOS ANGELES — The Michael Jackson estate has sent a letter to the U.K.’s Channel 4 warning that a documentary on two men who accuse the singer of molesting them as boys violates the network’s programming guidelines.
The letter written by estate attorney Howard Weitzman and released Monday to The Associated Press states that “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 states, adding “it is hard to imagine more significant accusations that can possibly be made against anyone.”
Yet no one was ever asked to respond, the letter states.
“This includes persons mentioned by name in your ‘documentary’ as having ‘replaced’ Robson and Safechuck as Jackson’s supposed victims of abuse. Those named persons eloquently and publicly deny ever being abused,” the letter states.
Channel 4 said in a statement Monday that the allegations against Jackson are rebutted in the documentary by denials that Jackson made during his lifetime. It says 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.
The film’s director Dan Reed has addressed the criticism from the estate previously, saying in a statement that he intentionally focused on just Robson and Safechuck.
“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,” Reed said.
The three-page document from the estate echoes a longer letter it sent to HBO on Friday calling the allegations from Wade Robson and James Safechuck “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 U.K. 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.
It premiered last month at the Sundance Film Festival, where Robson and Safechuck got a standing ovation afterward.
Both had previously told authorities Jackson did not molest them, with Robson testifying as much in Jackson’s 2005 trial, in which he was acquitted of molesting another boy. Jackson died in 2009.
Both men later filed lawsuits that were dismissed and are currently on appeal.
The AP does not typically name victims of sexual abuse, but attorneys for Robson and Safechuck have said they have agreed to be named publicly.
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