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Last Updated:  Friday, 7 March, 2003, 10:14 GMT
Michael accuses BBC in war row
George Michael on the BBC's Hardtalk
George Michael performed a version of a Don McLean protest song
Singer George Michael has accused music TV show Top of the Pops of ordering him not to wear an anti-war T-shirt for a performance.

The star, who recorded a version of protest song The Grave for the show, said the BBC refused to let him wear a T-shirt bearing the words "No, war, Blair out".

His spokeswoman said he was "very upset" at having to change for the performance of the Don McLean song, which was aired on BBC One on Friday.

"We are not giving George Michael a platform to air his political views, we are giving viewers the fantastic opportunity to see an international star perform on TOTP for the first time in 17 years," a BBC statement said.

The BBC has a duty to air all points of view equally, so if there was a pro-war song performed by an equally established artist it would be considered in the same way
BBC statement
Michael's spokeswoman also said the BBC told his backing band that they would be cut out of the broadcast when they wore the T-shirts because they did not have a change of clothes.

"George wore a black sweatshirt with denim jacket during rehearsals and a brown leather jacket and black hooded top during his main performance," the BBC said.

"At no stage did he wear a T-shirt. His backing singers did wear anti-war T-shirts but the programme was still being edited right up until transmission."

The audience's attention was focused on the first appearance on the show of such a big star for a generation, the statement said.

"The BBC has a duty to air all points of view equally, so if for instance, there was a pro-war song performed by an equally established artist it would be considered in the same way adhering to BBC editorial policy guidelines," the statement said.

Michael had not appeared on Top of the Pops since singing Wham!'s number one Edge of Heaven in 1986.

The Grave was originally written by McLean about the Vietnam war.

McLean said he was "proud of George Michael for standing up for life and sanity".

Paul Weller
Paul Weller: Headlining an anti-war concert
George Michael has been one of the most outspoken celebrities on the issue of Iraq, and performed an anti-war version of his hit Faith with Ms Dynamite at the Brit Awards.

The BBC did give him an opportunity to air his anti-war views on Friday, however, in a debate with Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith - who backs the the government's line - on Radio Five Live's Drive show.

Another star, Paul Weller, has been lined up to headline an all-star anti-war concert staged by Glastonbury Festival organiser Emily Eavis.

He will appear alongside dance group Faithless, singer-songwriter Evan Dando and former Echo and the Bunnymen frontman Ian McCulloch at the fund-raising show in London.

John Lennon's widow Yoko Ono will send a video message, as will singers David Gray and Badly Drawn Boy.

There will also be "very special unannounced guests", organisers have said.

The participation of former Jam star Weller comes after he included a song denouncing the "hypocrisy" of Tony Blair and George Bush on his latest album.

But when it was released in September 2002, he said he would not get on a platform to air his views because his involvement in politics in the 1980s was "the biggest mistake ever".

Film director Ken Loach and poet Benjamin Zephaniah will speak at the event, to be held at the Shepherd's Bush Empire on 15 March.


SEE ALSO:
Michael praised for protest cover
01 Mar 03 |  Entertainment
Michael blasts Blair over Iraq
25 Feb 03 |  Politics
Michael against 'War Aid' song
26 Feb 03 |  Entertainment
Brits winners attack war plans
21 Feb 03 |  Entertainment
Weller releases anti-war song
04 Sep 02 |  Entertainment
Performers unite for peace
14 Feb 03 |  Entertainment


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