Wednesday 17 November 2010
Figures show that the episode was last week's third most complained about television programme, beaten only by two episodes of controversial talent show 'X Factor'.
On Thursday 11th November, just two days after 'This Morning' aired a series of nasty comments by Kelvin MacKenzie about Michael Jackson and his children, OFCOM announced that it had already obtained the footage and conducted an investigation into the incident. The body refused to uphold complaints about the show on the fictitious premise that the segment had not breached the OFCOM code.
Bizarrely, ITV seemed to reach the opposite conclusion. On the same day that OFCOM claimed there had been nothing wrong with the segment, ITV removed the clip from its online catch-up service.
Not content with contradicting OFCOM, ITV have spent much of the last few days contradicting themselves. Despite believing that MacKenzie's comments were offensive enough to warrant removing them from the catch-up service, ITV is now bombarding Jackson's fans with generic and inaccurate emails denying that there was anything wrong with the segment.
The email, apparently written by ITV's head of legal compliance Mark Sunderland, completely re-writes the events of Tuesday 9th November and is successfully rebutted, point by point, in this eloquent and frequently hilarious response by Deborah Ffrench.
In the email Sunderland dismisses those offended by MacKenzie's comments as 'fans', but makes no mention of Jackson's friends and family. This is despite Jackson's nephew Taj publicly voicing his dismay over the comments and US Ambassador Paul W Jones, a personal friend of Michael Jackson, sending a letter of complaint to the broadcaster.
Sunderland also wrongly claims that 'This Morning' host Phillip Schofield made clear that MacKenzie's comments did not represent the views of ITV. The footage tells a different story but, of course, ITV destroyed that evidence on Thursday.
Sunday 14 November 2010
During the half-hour interview a number of other subjects were covered, including the release of the new Michael Jackson album and the campaign waged against me this summer by conspiracy bloggers. The latter discussion appears to have provoked the ire of one such conspiracy blogger, whose latest entry is a frenzied rant about my appearance on the broadcast.
During the last five months or so I have become accustomed to seeing harebrained blog entries written about me and have mostly managed to abstain from responding to them, but this one caught my attention because the blogger in question - Bonnie Cox - told some pretty sizable porkies, including a couple about the content of her own blogs.
During my interview on Blog Talk Radio I discussed two of the accusations that Bonnie had made about me in the past few months; namely that I was involved in a plot with John Branca and that somebody had hired me to attack AEG.
Bizarrely, Cox took to her blog this weekend to deny ever making either of those accusations, apparently forgetting that the original accusations were still on her blog for anybody and everybody to read.
Here's Cox in her latest blog entry, denying that she ever accused me of being involved in a plot with John Branca:
And yet here she is the previous month, blatantly accusing me of being involved in a 'buddy-buddy three-some' with John Branca and Randy Taraborrelli, 'getting along on MJ's wallet, name, blood, sweat and tears':
Back-pedal, or amnesia? You be the judge.
Similarly, here's Bonnie in her latest entry claiming that she didn't accuse me of being hired to attack AEG:
No Bonnie, it wasn't Muzik, it was you. Look:
Jog any memories?
During my discussion with the hosts about conspiracy bloggers and their methods, I mentioned how these bloggers totally dismiss any evidence which contradicts their pre-determined conclusions. I used the example of bloggers who constantly claim that I didn't write positively about Michael Jackson until after he died, even though a fifteen second visit to my website will show that I've been writing pro-Jackson articles for several years.
Did Bonnie take this opportunity to 'fess up to her deception? No. She logged straight into her blog and repeated the exact claim that I'd just debunked:
Her comment is a lie. Simple as that. The first time I was ever paid for a story about Michael Jackson was in March 2009 when I was contacted by a member of MJ's camp and specifically asked to leak information on his trip to London, in order to create hype around his impending concert announcement. Prior to that my only work on Michael Jackson was largely very sympathetic and was written pro bono, such as my 2008 interview with Aphrodite Jones about her book 'Michael Jackson Conspiracy'.
Any claim that I was paid for anything Jackson-related before March 2009 is a lie and any claim that I didn't support Jackson before he died is also a lie.
In her new blog entry, Bonnie once more utilises the exact tactic that I described in my radio interview, telling her readers a half-truth and filling in the gaps with pure fantasy. She mentions my 2007 article about the album 'Thriller 25' and claims that it is proof of a pre-existing relationship between myself and Sony:
Firstly, Bonnie is a liar. I did not interview Sony's 'marketing head honcho'. I interviewed a member of Sony's catalogue release department marketing team. On top of this outright lie, she omits important information with the specific intention of misrepresenting my interaction with Sony.
What Bonnie doesn't tell you is that I was dispatched to Sony HQ in December 2007 by a fansite. Like many journalism students, I used to write for free for fansites in order to bolster my portfolio of published work and gain vital interviewing/writing experience.
In other words - as a 19 year old journalism student I interviewed a member of Sony's catalogue release marketing team for a Michael Jackson fansite. This, according to Bonnie, proves that I am a dastardly co-conspirator in an evil Sony plot to murder Michael Jackson.
The other thing Bonnie doesn't tell you is that my review of 'Thriller 25' was negative, not positive, which totally negates any implication that I was somehow acting as an agent of the record company who put it out. I described one of the remixes on the set as sounding like 'a hobo bludgeoning a dwarf with a sack full of windchimes'. In fact, the review was so negative that Sony complained about me in writing and issued me with a lifelong ban from their catalogue release department.
The latest blog from Bonnie is, essentially, just more of the usual; another gigantic dose of paranoia with a generous sprinkling of deception. But this time she has been caught out in a series of undeniable lies. She denied writing certain comments about me when those comments were still on her blog in black and white for all to see. In doing so, she has demonstrated just how changeable and unreliable she really is.
In the past it has been pointless to respond to Bonnie's claims because there has been no way to refute them. How can you prove that you haven't done something? If you've been to the Grand Canyon and someone accuses you of lying, you can pull out a photograph. If you haven't been to the Grand Canyon and somebody claims that you have - how can you prove they're lying?
What differentiates Bonnie's latest blog from her previous offerings is that this time she's trapped herself in her own web of deceit. Here, in black and white, are Bonnie's lies for all to see. On one day she'll claim that I'm in cahoots with Branca, on another she'll deny ever saying any such thing. In one entry she'll say I've been hired to attack AEG, in another she'll claim that it wasn't her and that it must have been a different blogger.
Her reader numbers have dwindled significantly since the summer after she embarked on a number of ill-advised campaigns against everybody from make-up artist Karen Faye to a variety of innocent fans. But after this latest embarrassment, it'll be a wonder if she has any readers left at all by the end of the year.
Here's an excerpt from the Blog Talk Radio discussion that caused the controversy:
MacKenzie provoked a storm in Jackson's fan community this week after saying that he had a 'substantial question as to how and why' Jackson's children had ever been born, that the star's death could have 'saved some children from a lifetime of being mentally corrupted' and that the star's children are better off now their father is dead.
The comments have already attracted the ire of Jackson's nephew Taj, who on Thursday used his twitter account to threaten ITV with legal action unless they issue an on-air apology.
Now US Ambassador Paul Jones, a friend of Jackson's, has fired off a missive to ITV. He has not released his email for publication as he complained in a private, not professional, capacity - but his wife today confirmed that both she and her husband had registered complaints with the broadcaster.
In her email to ITV, Jones' wife Catherine said she was 'disgusted' and 'angry' over MacKenzie's 'sickening' comments and that an on-air apology is 'the very least [ITV] can do'.
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Saturday 13 November 2010
MacKenzie sparked outrage among Jackson's fans when he appeared on the ITV show and said he couldn't understand why Michael Jackson's children had been born. He went on to raise the subject of Jackson's 2005 trial and suggest that the star's death had 'saved some children from a lifetime of mental corruption'. He ended his diatribe by stating that Jackson's children are better off now their father is dead.
Fans began complaining to ITV and UK television regulator OFCOM on Tuesday but on Thursday, after OFCOM stated that they would not be acting on complaints over the show and ITV removed the clip from its website, Taj Jackson took to his twitter page and weighed in on the row.
After re-posting links to articles about MacKenzie's comments and urging his 20,000 followers to complain to ITV, Jackson threatened legal action against the TV station.
He wrote, "If we don't get an on air apology from ITV soon, my next step is legal. The time for bad mouthing & spreading lies about my uncle are OVER."
Taj Jackson's comments sparked a groundswell of support for the campaign and on Friday the television station was bombarded with emails and phonecalls from fans around the world expressing their disgust at MacKenzie's outburst. An ITV representative confided in one caller that bosses were 'looking into' the complaints.
OFCOM: 'Bullying Grieving Orphans Doesn't Break Any of Our Rules' - Watchdog refuses to take action as ITV destroys the evidence
The watchdog, who wouldn't reveal how many complaints had been made about the programme, released the following statement: "Whilst we understand that some viewers may have been offended; it does not break any of our rules. The complaints have not been upheld."
The statement is both glib and inaccurate. At least one rule was unarguably broken; Section 7.11 of OFCOM's broadcast code demands that, "If a programme alleges wrongdoing or incompetence or makes other significant allegations, those concerned should normally be given an appropriate and timely opportunity to respond."
Kelvin MacKenzie undeniably used 'This Morning' as an outlet to accuse Jackson of significant wrongdoing, raising the singer's 2005 trial and saying that his death could have 'saved some children from a lifetime of mental corruption'. It's also undeniable that 'This Morning' did not give the star's family or estate an appropriate and timely opportunity to respond. There's a strong argument to be made that at least four other sections of the OFCOM code were breached as well. You can read about that in my last blog entry.
OFCOM's reaction is unsurprising. Like the PCC, where Michael Jackson is concerned OFCOM isn't interested in taking action over even the most blatant breaches of their broadcasting code.
In 2003, when Martin Bashir's 'Living With Michael Jackson' was aired, OFCOM was hit with an extraordinary number of complaints about Bashir's conduct - including a complaint from Jackson himself.
Jackson's footage, along with correspondence, proved that Bashir had lied about the subject of his documentary, lied about interviewing Jackson's friends like Elizabeth Taylor, set-up filming opportunities and then sneered at them in voiceover, omitted vital comments from Jackson, and used sneaky editing and snarky voiceover to give a misleading impression of Jackson's words and behaviour.
OFCOM took no action.
In 2007 Jacques Peretti made a documentary even more offensive than Bashir's. Watching the show with a notepad in hand, I counted almost one factual inaccuracy per minute of screentime. As well as misstating facts and evidence throughout the entire show, Peretti specifically sought out interviewees who disliked Jackson and had a history of lying about him.
Two of Peretti's talking heads - Diane Dimond and Victor Guttierrez - were sued by Jackson for millions of dollars in 1995 after the pair appeared on US TV show 'Hard Copy' and claimed to have a videotape of Jackson molesting a child. Jackson challenged them to produce the videotape and they couldn't.
Dimond used her friendship with DA Tom Sneddon to extract herself from the lawsuit but Jackson successfully sued Guttierrez and he was ordered to pay the star millions of dollars in legal fees and compensation. Instead he skipped the country and never coughed up the cash. Both Dimond and Guttierrez were interviewed in Peretti's documentary and the presenter didn't see fit to mention this lawsuit when introducing either of them, instead allowing them to masquerade as Jackson experts.
Another of Peretti's talking heads - former Jackson aide Bob Jones - admitted during his testimony at the star's trial in 2005 that his book on Jackson included embellishments to make it more enticing to publishers and public alike. The embellishments included a claim that he'd seen Jackson lick a child's head - a story he admitted on the stand was a fabrication. Peretti didn't see fit to mention this either.
The only pro-Jackson talking head and indeed the only real authority on Jackson's trial - lawyer Thomas Mesereau - was given roughly one minute of screentime and Peretti dismissed his comments by insinuating that he was money driven and Jackson had simply bought justice by hiring an expensive lawyer. On top of all this, Peretti at one point overtly stated that Jackson and Jordy Chandler had been 'in a relationship' and wrongly claimed that the boy had accurately described Jackson's genitals.
OFCOM dismissed all complaints about the programme on the extremely tenuous basis that some of them had been sent in before the show aired. But what of the complaints received afterwards? OFCOM didn't care.
OFCOM has a history of ignoring completely valid complaints about the media's treatment of Jackson and their dismissal of the complaints over MacKenzie's rant is simply another in a long line of travesties committed by the body against the singer and his family.
Bizarrely, on the same day that OFCOM announced that there was nothing wrong with MacKenzie's outburst, ITV seemed to reach the opposite conclusion. Although they still refuse to give Jackson's family and fans an on-air apology, or even an apology by telephone or email, ITV has removed MacKenzie's comments from the online version of the programme. Two days ago, Tuesday's episode of 'This Morning' briefly disappeared from the station's online catch-up service, the ITVPlayer. When it re-appeared, the entire discussion about Michael Jackson and his children had been deleted.
There's no question that the removal of MacKenzie's comments from the online version of the programme was a direct response to the barrage of complaints sent to the station and to OFCOM in the preceding days. OFCOM acknowledged in an email to me that they had requested footage of Tuesday's 'This Morning' from ITV, meaning ITV will have been aware that an OFCOM investigation into MacKenzie's comments was now being conducted. Perhaps foreseeing a potential PR disaster, ITV appears to have then removed the footage from their website, preventing new viewers from watching the clip and complaining about it and also preventing newspaper journalists from watching the footage and quoting it.
What we are witnessing is a cover-up and a clumsy one at that. OFCOM denies any rules were broken in spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary and now ITV staff are trying to destroy that evidence before the media can get hold of it.
Tuesday 9 November 2010
However, today I was informed of an incident which my conscience wouldn't allow me to ignore. Kelvin MacKenzie, former editor of the Sun newspaper, appeared today on the British TV show 'This Morning' and claimed that Michael Jackson was a child molester and his children are better off now that he's dead.
He launched this vicious diatribe in the wake of a moving interview with Jackson's children, conducted by Oprah Winfrey, in which the three kids recounted what a wonderful father Jackson was and how much they missed him.
Here is a full transcript of the exchange:
Phillip Schofield (Host): Let’s finish on this one. Michael Jackson was the best dad, his daughter tells Oprah. Oprah Winfrey has done the first interview with Michael Jackson – his parents, his children; Paris and Prince Michael and Blanket, of course, since he passed away. Paris called her dad the best dad and revealed that he was a normal dad. She said that he made the best French toast in the world. We’ve got a clip from it, actually. Here you go.
[Clip of the children talking about their father]
Schofield: Interestingly, these things don’t happen without controversy. Here you go. Michael’s brother Randy has spoken out against the chat, saying ‘I know that he would not have wanted this. In fact, she’s the last person on earth he would want around his children.’ He said that because in 2005 while the jury was deliberating Michael’s molestation charges, Oprah did a whole show dedicated to him.
Lesley Joseph (Guest): But you do wonder why they went on, because I have a feeling that those kids – much as I don’t know anything about it – but they do seem terribly well adjusted. So I’m sure they would not have been got on there had they not wanted to do it and had they not… Especially the girl, and you just have the feeling that she said, ‘Listen, I want to go on and say how great my dad was. And then who’s to say they shouldn’t? They do seem incredibly well adjusted, maybe I’m wrong.
Kelvin MacKenzie (Guest): Well, she gave a good interview but of course she’s been brought up in the limelight. It was quite a nice thing for her to say, I must say, about her dead father. I have much more significant question about how and why some of those children were born and under what circumstances they were born – and whether he, in the end, would have turned out to be a great father. Certainly, there are aspects to him which I think your audience would raise their eyebrows.
Joseph: But that’s them, Kelvin, that’s not the children. The children are born [audio interference].
Holly Willoughby (Host): Because their identities were kept so secret I think we all had it in our minds that they were going to be a bit of a horror show but they seem, like you said, very well adjusted and normal kids just talking about their father.
Joseph: And they’re not to blame for what went on before or even for the fact that they were born. That’s him, not them.
MacKenzie: OK, well a rather different view to that is that the death of Michael Jackson may well have saved some children, possibly, who knows…
Schofield: Allegedly, though…
Schofield: He wasn’t found guilty
MacKenzie: …from a lifetime of being mentally corrupted, shall we say.
Schofield: We don’t know that, though. We don’t know that…
MacKenzie: No, we don’t know that.
Schofield: …that is the case.
MacKenzie: He’s faced a number of charges, a number of allegations, and I in some ways feel that the children will have a better life for their father not being around, which is pretty unusual.
Schofield: Those are tough words and I think they would obviously disagree with you there.
MacKenzie's comments were morally and ethically reprehensible. He demonstrated a complete lack of respect for the justice system and also for the ethics of his profession. Jackson was acquitted of any wrongdoing and nobody has any right to insinuate that he was anything other than innocent.
That said, it's not unusual to witness misinformed nitwits talking rubbish about Jackson's court case - the vast majority of those who take to the airwaves to deliver their expert opinion on his trial have never read single day's worth of transcripts. More alarming than MacKenzie's ridiculous comments about Jackson's trial was the callousness he demonstrated in claiming that the children were better off now that their father was dead.
The comments had no basis in reality. After watching video footage of Jackson's children speaking about what a wonderful father he was and what a magnificent childhood he gave them, MacKenzie completely disregarded everything they'd said in order to offer a baseless opinion that they were actually severely at risk of abuse and mental corruption. Moreover, he in one breath showed apparent concern for their wellbeing and in another insinuated that they should never have been born in the first place. In other words, he's a hypocrite.
He's also a bigot. In the past he has claimed that he tailored his newspaper to those who hate 'wogs' and 'queers' (note to US fans: 'wog' is a derogatory phrase used to describe black people). MacKenzie has a long and provable bias against Jackson and, during his time as editor of the Sun, was responsible for countless inaccurate and heavily biased stories about the star. He was also helming the newspaper when it coined the term 'Wacko Jacko' in the 1980s.
Given MacKenzie's long and demonstrable hatred of Michael Jackson, questions must be asked as to why exactly he was asked onto the show in the first place, unless producers were specifically angling for exactly the kind of cruel and heartless comments that he inevitably wound up making.
Moreover, the incident once again raises questions about the validity of television shows which invite non-experts to offer their opinions on people they've never met and stories that they don't understand. What purpose does this practice serve? These inane TV spots plagued Jackson during his 2005 trial. 'Expert panels' comprising collections of people who had been nowhere near the courtroom for the duration of Jackson's trial were routinely assembled on television shows to offer their brainless comments on a court case in which they couldn't even recite the charge sheet.
MacKenzie's outburst was unaccaptable. Although entirely devoid of any moral, ethical or factual basis, the comments about the trial were unsurprising. It's all been said before and - though I'm sure it'll pain MacKenzie to hear it - far more shockingly. But to announce on television that three orphaned children are better off now their father is dead and proclaim that they should never have been born in the first place - that is beyond vile.
Fans wishing to complain directly to the television show can do so by emailing email@example.com
For fans wishing to take their complaints a little further, MacKenzie's comments also breached numerous segments of the OFCOM Broadcast Code. OFCOM is the UK's regulatory body for television and radio programming.
Section 2.2 of the code demands that, "Factual programmes or items or portrayals of factual matters must not materially mislead the audience." MacKenzie's comments were clearly misleading. He ignored the facts and evidence presented at Jackson's trial and dismissed the verdict. He also ignored the children's firsthand accounts of their lives with Jackson in order to portray them instead as having been 'corrupted' and say that they were potential victims of 'abuse'.
Section 2.3 of the code demands that, "Broadcasters must ensure that material which may cause offence is justified by the context." MacKenzie's comments were patently not justified by the context. In a discussion about an interview between Oprah Winfrey and Michael Jackson's children, MacKenzie irrelevantly raised the subject of Jackson's trial and proceeded to dismiss the verdict, insinuating that Jackson was a child molester.
Section 7.1 of the code demands that, "Broadcasters must avoid unjust or unfair treatment of individuals or organisations in programmes." This section of the code is constantly flouted when dealing with Michael Jackson. Examples of programmes which were biased, inaccurate and borderline illegal include Martin Bashir's 'Living With Michael Jackson' and Jacques Peretti's 'What Really Happened'. OFCOM never implements this section of the code. Does calling somebody a child abuser when they've been acquitted in a court of law constitute treating somebody unjustly or unfairly? You'd be hard pressed to find anybody to argue that it didn't, but watch OFCOM try anyway.
Section 7.9 of the code demands that, "Before broadcasting a factual programme, including programmes examining past events, broadcasters should take reasonable care to satisfy themselves that material facts have not been presented, disregarded or omitted in a way that is unfair to an individual or organisation." Material facts were clearly omitted and disregarded during Kelvin MacKenzie's unprovoked diatribe against Jackson. He ignored the facts, evidence and verdict in Jackson's trial and accused the star of being a child molester. MacKenzie also ignored the children's comments about their upbringing and proceeded to portray it as the exact opposite of what they claimed.
Section 7.11 of the code demands that, "If a programme alleges wrongdoing or incompetence or makes other significant allegations, those concerned should normally be given an appropriate and timely opportunity to respond." Clearly, Jackson could not respond to Kelvin Mackenzie's inaccurate allegations, but no representative of Jackson's family or estate was invited to appear on the show or to offer a rebuttal in the aftermath.
Fans wishing to complain to OFCOM can do so at this link:
However, they will be required to supply a UK address and telephone number.