BBC won’t play anti-Thatcher song in chart show
The BBC is planning on censoring the song Ding-Dong the Witch is Dead whatever position it reaches in the singles charts this weekend.
The Judy Garland song has been seized on by opponents of Margaret Thatcher to celebrate her death from a stroke earlier this week and has already sold 20,000 copies since Monday.
But today the BBC announced it would not play it in the chart show and would instead only feature a clip of it during a special news report.
It is only expected to play five seconds of the song.
"I've decided exceptionally that we should treat the rise of the song, based as it is on a political campaign to denigrate Lady Thatcher’s memory, as a news story. So we will play a brief excerpt of it in a short news report during the show which explains to our audience why a 70-year-old song is at the top of the charts," Radio 1 controller Ben Cooper said.
"To ban the record from our airwaves completely would risk giving the campaign the oxygen of further publicity and might inflame an already delicate situation."
The decision to censor the song will please many traditionalists but it could anger opponents of the former prime minister and add to the song's publicity.
A collection of right-wing newspapers – which just recently were campaigning for media freedom against the Leveson report – demanded the BBC desist from playing the song this morning.
Media committee chairman John Whittingdale even appeared to threaten a tough session with new BBC director general Tony Hall if the corporation went ahead with the programme as usual.
"This is an attempt to manipulate the charts by people trying to make a political point. Most people will find that offensive and deeply insensitive, and for that reason it would be better if the BBC did not play it. It's a political act," he said.
"Sometimes the BBC has taken the decision not to play a record because it is offensive, such as the Sex Pistols' God Save the Queen, but that is a matter for the director general, who will be appearing before my committee in two weeks."
Asked about the controversy, Nick Clegg said: "I really don't think we should start telling broadcasters what songs they should play."
The BBC previously refused to play the Sex Pistol's God Save the Queen during the Silver Jubilee when it reached number two in the charts.
Tory MP Philip Davies, who usually adopts a right-wing position on political issues, insisted it would be absurd for the BBC to censor the song.
"It's a chart programme so if it's top of the charts they have to play it. It's not for the BBC to define on what basis something is in the charts," he said.
"However I think this whole campaign is pretty pathetic really if the best these left-wingers can achieve in their lives is to campaign for a song."
ITV News: Buying anti-Thatcher Ding Dong song 'very cathartic'
Ukip leader and Thatcher admirer Nigel Farage said: "If you suppress things then you make them popular, so play the bloody thing. If you ban it it will be number one for weeks.
"Personally I think that the behaviour of these yobs – most of whom weren’t even born when Lady Thatcher was in power – is horrible, offensive and disgusting.
"Much as I hate it, I think that if you ban a record you make a huge, huge mistake."
The film, which comes from the 1939 Wizard Of Oz film, reached number four in the midweek charts and is at number one on iTunes.
It includes the lyrics: "Wake up, the Wicked Witch is dead/She's gone where the goblins go/Below, below, below."
Supporters of Thatcher have tried to rally around Madonna song True Blue – the codename used for her funeral – but it shows little sign of competing with the Judy Garland track.
It comes as Theresa May attacked councillor and fire service boss John Edwards for saying people should "rejoice" at the passing of the former prime minister.
"These comments are pretty sick. Whatever anybody thought about Baroness Thatcher, she was a remarkable figure and a great leader," the home secretary said.
"Not everybody agreed with her but someone in public office ought to have more respect."
The row is just the latest outburst from Thatcher supporters against the BBC.
During the Commons debate on her legacy this week, Tory MP Peter Lilley attacked the corporation for calling her divisive, saying it "tells us more about the BBC than it does about her".
Some right-wing commentators even atacked presenter Huw Edwards for failing to wear a black tie.