Radio 1 Chart Show will not play full Margaret Thatcher song during official chart show

Joseph McCormick April 12, 2013
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BBC Radio 1 has announced that it will not play the full version of Ding Dong the Witch is Dead during Sunday’s Official Chart Show, amidst controversy over a campaign to get it to number one following Margaret Thatcher’s death.

As of today, the record had reached number three in the Official Chart sales flash, and the campaign to get it to number one is ongoing.

The divisive campaign was started in response to the death of former prime minister Maragaret Thatcher, who died on Monday, aged 87 from a stroke.

Ding Dong the Witch is Dead from the 1939 film the Wizard of Oz, featuring Judy Garland, had become synonymous with social media messages by those opposed to Thatcher’s politics.

A long-time gay icon, Judy Garland was voted the number one female gay icon in a 2009 poll, with Elton John featuring as the number one male. 

Radio 1 Controller, Ben Cooper said the BBC had attempted to reach a compromise on the issue, and during a news bulletin, a five-second clip of the song will be played, rather than the full 51-seconds.

He said:  “The decision I have made is I am not going to play it in full but that I will play a clip of it in a news environment.

“When I say a news environment, that is a newsreader telling you about the fact that this record has reached a certain place in the chart and here is a clip of that track.

“It is a compromise and it is a difficult compromise to come to. You have very difficult and emotional arguments on both sides of the fence.

“Let’s not forget you also have a family that is grieving for a loved one who is yet to be buried.”

The announcement by Cooper has already caused controversy, with many taking to Twitter to complain, some accusing the BBC of editorialising the chart, and that it should not be “censored”.

Cooper also published a blog, in which he said he was “caught between a rock and a hard place”, saying: “Nobody at Radio 1 wishes to cause offence but nor do I believe that we can ignore the song in the chart show.”

“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 BBC also released a statement on the issue saying: “The BBC finds this campaign distasteful but does not believe the record should be banned.”

At time of publication, the BBC had not contacted the Thatcher family regarding its decision to play the clip.

A counter campaign has started to get the punk song I’m in Love with Margaret Thatcher to number one, in retaliation to the original Facebook group which had almost 9,000 members at time of publication.

Ding Dong the Witch is Dead, credited to Judy Garland and the cast of the film, is expected to also feature in the Capital FM Chart’s Big Top 40. A spokesman for Capital FM said the station was currently “reviewing the situation”.

Thatcher’s politics on gay issues proved to be divisive for the LGBT community. She voted for the decriminalisation of homosexuality in 1967; however, her government  in 1987 introduced the highly controversial Section 28, which banned the “promotion” of homosexuality in schools.

Back in 2007, a BBC radio channel reversed its decision to bleep out the word “faggot” from the Pogues and Kirsty MacColl Christmas song Fairytale of New York. BBC Radio 1 had previously decided to censor the song over concerns it may cause offence to gay people.

More: Baroness Thatcher, bbc radio one, ben cooper, chart show, i'm in love with margaret thatcher, Judy Garland, Margaret Thatcher, official chart, radio 1, top 40, wizard of oz

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