Fri 07 Mar 2003     BBC Studios, London, England

The Grave




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George Michael accuses BBC in war row

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.

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".

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.




This was broadcasted on BBC TV.