For radio, the decision about whether to pull Chris Brown's songs from the airwaves is a difficult one, as the story about his arrest following an alleged altercation with girlfriend Rihanna continues to unfold.
Like other artists before him whose private legal matters have impacted their public careers — such as Michael Jackson and R. Kelly — it appears that, for now, many program managers are taking a wait-and-see approach with one of the most popular radio artists of the past few years.
According to the Indianapolis Star, pop-radio station 100.9 WNOU-FM pulled Brown's music from its playlists Tuesday based on "listener criticism of the singer after his arrest in connection with the assault of a woman." The station's program director reportedly polled his audience for feedback, and 52 percent voted to drop Brown. The said Brown's songs could reappear when more is known about the case or his legal issues are resolved.
WAKS-FM 96.5 in Cleveland announced that it yanked all Brown songs from its on-air playlist until further notice, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer. The station's nighttime DJ, Java Joel, said in a press release: "After the alleged incident, the phones exploded. It's all that people wanted to talk about. They were outraged at this alleged behavior and wondered why we were continuing to support his music. I agreed, and immediately pulled all Chris Brown songs from my show until this thing shakes out in the legal system."
Following Joel's comments, program director Bo Matthews reportedly decided to pull Brown's music off the station entirely. "It appears that Chris has made some poor choices," Matthews said. "We are following the lead of our listeners, and we will not be supporting Chris Brown on 96.5 Kiss FM in Cleveland until the alleged situation gets resolved."
Bob Burke, vice president/ managing director for the radio-industry trade magazine Friday Morning Quarter Back, said so far, the two stations are the only ones to publicly drop Brown, though "Forever" has seen a bit of a drop-off in spins since the news broke over the weekend. "This story is gaining legs now, but those are the first two to take a stance on it," he said. "As more facts come out, it's up to each individual station [to decide if they will drop Brown]."
For programmers, the decision is a bit easier, he said, since neither Brown nor Rihanna currently has a huge single at radio, but both have a number of songs in rotation across the country. "It's still early, and it's hard to tell what people will do," he said. "Some might play it safe, but could people stop playing his music for a while or possibly drop it forever? It remains to be seen. Like R. Kelly, it's innocent until proven guilty."