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In a 10-minute video, Rogan responds to protests over his podcast on Spotify

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Spotify is in a tight spot. Musicians Neil Young and Joni Mitchell have pulled their music off the streaming service because they say that Joe Rogan, the host of its most popular podcast, was allowing guests to spread misinformation about COVID-19. Last night, Rogan addressed those criticisms. His comments have sparked even more anger, as well as a lot of support from his fans. Joining us to discuss the latest is NPR culture correspondent Anastasia Tsioulcas. Hi, Anastasia.

ANASTASIA TSIOULCAS, BYLINE: Good morning, Leila.

FADEL: So it doesn't sound like Joe Rogan's comments quelled the controversy. What did he say?

TSIOULCAS: He put out a nearly 10-minute video on Instagram yesterday evening. He didn't apologize to anyone or to Spotify, and the video went through a few different turns. For one thing, he argued that he was not spreading misinformation and that some people have a, quote, "distorted perception" of what it is he does. He said he's merely sharing opinions. Let's take a listen.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JOE ROGAN: I do not know if they're right. I don't know because I'm not a doctor. I'm not a scientist. I'm just a person who sits down and talks to people and has conversations with them. Do I get things wrong? Absolutely. I get things wrong. But I try to correct them because I'm interested in telling the truth. I'm interested in finding out what the truth is.

TSIOULCAS: And Rogan added that he supports Spotify's decision to put a label on what he says are, quote "controversial podcasts."

FADEL: So is that what Spotify's planning to do?

TSIOULCAS: Well, actually, not exactly, Leila. And that's an interesting and important distinction. In a press release issued just yesterday, Daniel Ek, the CEO of Spotify, said his company will introduce a content advisory to any podcast episode that discusses COVID-19. That's whether or not the content is, for example, a discussion that includes internationally recognized health experts or potentially disseminates misinformation. Ek said the advisory will direct Spotify listeners to a dedicated coronavirus hub with links to, quote, "trusted sources."

FADEL: That sounds like a bit of a equivocation, as if any discussion is equally valid and trustworthy.

TSIOULCAS: That's a very real concern, yes. Ek has said repeatedly that he prioritizes making sure that creators who use the Spotify platform maintain creative freedom. In this new statement, though, Ek also said, quote, "it's become clear to me that we have an obligation to do more to provide balance and access to widely accepted information from the medical and scientific communities guiding us through this unprecedented time."

FADEL: So did Rogan say he'd do anything further in his own podcast to address this controversy or misinformation?

TSIOULCAS: So in the same Instagram video yesterday, he did say that he saw this as a time to present more experts and maybe do a little more research about his guests and what they're saying.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ROGAN: Maybe try harder to get people with differing opinions on right afterwards - I do think that that's important - and do my best to make sure that I've researched these topics, the controversial ones in particular, and have all the pertinent facts at hand before I discuss them.

FADEL: So far, a couple of very prominent musical artists - Neil Young, Joni Mitchell - have both asked for their music to be removed from Spotify. Have others followed suit?

TSIOULCAS: There were some rumors flying around social media over the weekend that a number of other artists have followed suit, but that's not accurate as of now. As of right now, the other prominent musician is guitarist Nils Lofgren, who's a longtime member of Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band and Crazy Horse with Neil Young.

FADEL: Thanks, Anastasia.

TSIOULCAS: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Leila Fadel
Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.
Anastasia Tsioulcas
Anastasia Tsioulcas is a reporter on NPR's Arts desk. She is intensely interested in the arts at the intersection of culture, politics, economics and identity, and primarily reports on music. Recently, she has extensively covered gender issues and #MeToo in the music industry, including backstage tumult and alleged secret deals in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations against megastar singer Plácido Domingo; gender inequity issues at the Grammy Awards and the myriad accusations of sexual misconduct against singer R. Kelly.