The Lifetime television network has launched a new documentary series titled Surviving R. Kelly, and its immediate effect means that R. Kelly's music — at least for the moment — is not surviving on two Dallas-area radio stations.
The pair of local stations are among the first in the U.S. to ban R. Kelly's music in the wake of sexual assault allegations against the 52-year-old Chicago-born singer, songwriter and record producer, who also is a former minor-league basketball player.
Smooth R&B 105.7 and K104 are independently owned stations that made the call this week, WFAA-TV (Channel 8) reported Wednesday night, and did so, executives said, in response to listener requests.
"We decided that we would ban R. Kelly from both of the radio stations," K104 program director George Cook told WFAA. "I don't have plans to drop other artists at this particular moment, but R. Kelly is a unique situation."
The documentary series features interviews with women who accuse Kelly of sexual abuses that span decades. Women interviewed in the show depict Kelly as a "puppet master" operating a sex cult. He's also accused of having sex with underage women. The show has generated high ratings, and its content, Cook said, provoked the response of banning Kelly from the airwaves.
Listeners "wanted something to be done. They wanted him to be punished," said Cook. In recent days, Lady Gaga has apologized for previous collaborations with Kelly.
So what exactly is being banned on radio? All music performed by R. Kelly and even songs he produced. Officials at the Dallas stations say they're the first in the country to enforce a ban in response to the series, a decision that has since prompted articles in Rolling Stone, Spin and other publications.
Cook contends that other radio stations should do the same, and says some are already pulling Kelly's music but doing so without a public announcement.
"What's unique about our situation, Service Broadcasting is an independent operator, so we're not a publicly held company," Cook said.
Cook told WFAA that they want to be supportive, particularly for female staff members at the stations who are sexual assault survivors.
"Any woman that's been abused, they watch the documentary and they are living that nightmare again," he said. "This shouldn't happen to anyone. And it shouldn't happen in any community."
Prosecutors in Illinois and Georgia have opened investigations into allegations made against the singer, whose real name is Robert Sylvester Kelly.