Channel One, Russia’s main TV network, decided not to air the Michael Jackson documentary Leaving Neverland that was slated for Friday and Saturday night, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The content was deemed inappropriate by the network. Instead, Channel One has made the documentary available to stream for free online until Wednesday. “The film’s premiere at Sundance and on HBO provoked a controversial public reaction and aggression on the part of both supporters and opponents of the film,” Channel One spokeswoman Larisa Krymova stated. “In this situation, Channel One made the decision to move the Russian premiere of Leaving Neverland to its website.”
Other forms of protest and outrage against the film occurred in London outside the Channel Four headquarters since the network had aired the documentary. Jackson’s estate also sued HBO for releasing the documentary in the US due to an alleged agreement with the cable company in 1992 that prevented any type of disparaging content to be shown in relation to Jackson.
It was still surprising that the Russian channel has initially agreed to air that documentary due to its alignment with Russian political ideology. This incident with the documentary also relates back to the country’s homophobic stance. Any films with homosexual content is banned. The documentary specifically focuses on the sexual abuse that occured between the late singer and Wade Robson and James Safechuck. The interactions escalated with Jackson and the young men as they became older. Their past with Jackson was revived for Robson and Safechuck when Jackson appeared in court for child molestation, though at the time Jackson was acquitted.