12 Apr 2013

BBC to play short Ding Dong extract on Chart Show

The BBC will only play “four to five seconds” of Ding, Dong The Witch Is Dead – a big seller following the death of Baroness Thatcher – during this weekend’s Radio 1 Chart Show.

The Wizard of Oz song has shot into the top five after an online campaign encouraged opponents of the late prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, to buy it.

BBC director-general Tony Hall said: “I understand the concerns about this campaign. I personally believe it is distasteful and inappropriate. However I do believe it would be wrong to ban the song outright as free speech is an important principle and a ban would only give it more publicity.

“I have spoken at some length with the Director of Radio Graham Ellis and Radio 1 Controller Ben Cooper. We have agreed that we won’t be playing the song in full, rather treating it as a news story and playing a short extract to put it in context.”

I do believe it would be wrong to ban the song outright as free speech is an important principle. BBC director-general Tony Hall

Radio 1 Controller Ben Cooper announced on BBC TV that the programme would only play “four to five seconds” of the song.

He said there were “very difficult and emotional arguments on both sides of the fence”.

‘Rock and a hard place’

Writing in his BBC blog, Mr Cooper said he had been “caught between a rock and a hard place”.

He said: “On one side there is the understandable anger of large numbers of people who are appalled by this campaign.

“On the other, there is the question of whether the chart show – which has run since the birth of Radio 1 in 1967 – can ignore a high new entry which clearly reflects the views of a big enough portion of the record-buying public to propel it up the charts.

“Above all, in the middle of this furore is a grieving family.

Read more: Thatcher's pop legacy - charity single or protest song?

“Nobody at Radio 1 wishes to cause offence but nor do I believe that we can ignore the song in the chart show, which is traditionally a formal record of the biggest-selling singles of the week. That in turn means that all songs in the chart become an historic fact.”

Rivals have launched a bid to get I'm In Love With Margaret Thatcher to the top slot instead

John Whittingdale, chair of the culture, media and sport select committee, had earlier said the song should not be played but has now backed the BBC’s decision.

“This was always going to be a very difficult decision for the BBC,” he said.

“I don’t think it would have been right to have allowed the chart show to have been hijacked for political purposes and had they played the whole song that would have been the consequence.

“But on the other hand they couldn’t have just ignored the fact that it does feature amongst the most downloaded singles of the week.”

Meanwhile, fans of Baroness Thatcher – who died of a stroke earlier this week – have launched a rival song to do battle with Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead in the music charts. They are urging supporters to buy punk song I’m In Love With Margaret Thatcher instead.