Justin Bieber music banned on Ottawa radio station until he goes to rehab

TORONTO – An Ottawa radio station is enacting a ban on pop star Justin Bieber’s music, in an effort to send him a message to ‘get help,’ following his Thursday arrest on suspicion of driving under the influence, drag racing and driving with an expired license.

The New Hot 89.9 FM Program Director Josie Geuer said the campaign—dubbed #HotBansBieber—started Thursday afternoon at 3:30 p.m. local time.

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“We just felt like that was almost the last straw….we thought banning his music would be one of the only ways to sort of get his attention—perhaps the label, perhaps him personally,” said Geuer, who noted the campaign’s press release was sent to Bieber’s label with no response as of Friday at noon.
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Ottawa radio station The New Hot 89.9 FM decided to ban Justin Bieber’s music after his arrest in an effort to get him to seek help. The New Hot 89.9 FM Handout

Geuer said her team was particularly worried about the reported drug abuse, since the Top 40 station has a lot of young listeners, and their Bieber ban won’t be lifted until the 19-year-old enters rehab.

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The New Hot 89.9 FM reaches 340,000 listeners each week, and brands itself the No. 1 commercial station in the city. Currently, since Bieber doesn’t have any singles on the Top 40 charts, he had been getting about 15 to 20 spins each week on the station—plus airtime for the 10 songs he’d been releasing on his Music Mondays series, said Geuer.

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In the station’s 11 years on air, they’ve only banned music from one other pop star: singer Chris Brown. That ban didn’t have a formal campaign, but was enacted in 2009 after Brown was charged with felony assault and making criminal threats against then-girlfriend Rihanna. A photo of Rihanna’s bruised face was posted online and played a part in public appearance and concert cancellations.

Chris Brown
Chris Brown at the 55th annual Grammy Awards, in Los Angeles on Feb. 10, 2013. Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP, File

“When he publicly apologized, and when Rihanna publicly forgave him, we did the same,” said the program director, noting they would now play his music should his songs make it into the Top 40 chart in future.

Brown was sentenced with community labour and five years formal probation, but there are other examples of singers whose work tops the charts amidst reports of criminal offences, such as R. Kelly and various reports of statutory rape and child pornography.

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Geuer said many factors come into play when deciding whether or not to ban a singer, adding “half of our playlist could probably disappear if we banned everyone that did something that was morally questionable.”

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We’re looking at somebody who’s at the peak of their career and has an incredible amount of influence,” she explained.

“R. Kelly is not incredibly influential currently. Yes, he has a single with Lady Gaga but he cannot be compared to a Justin Bieber or to what Chris Brown was four years ago. So you’re looking at people who really have a huge amount of impact and influence on others. And those are the ones that we want to send the message to.”

Singer R. Kelly in his June 2002 mug shot following his indictment on 21 counts of child pornography. Handout

Geuer said she and her colleagues are surprised with how their campaign has blown up, noting it made the front page of celebrity gossip website TMZ and adding she’s been fielding calls from ET Canada and Inside Edition.

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“It just seems to strike a chord…Parents are thinking, ‘My daughter looks up to this guy.’ And people his age are torn,” she said. “It’s creating dialogue between parents and children or maybe children amongst each other, just saying, ‘What is acceptable and what’s not?’”

While Beliebers wait to see what the young star will do next, Geuer hopes the message reaches him.

“Hopefully he does [get help]. We want to play his music; we love his music.”

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