Will “Ding Dong! The Witch is Dead” be censored?

by Charlie Crooijmans

ding dongThe song Ding Dong! The Witch is Dead from the movie The Wizard of Oz (1939) sung by the Munchkins, is propelled to the top of the charts in the wake of former PM Margaret Thatcher’s death. There has been a campaign of Facebook that already started six years ago, to ‘make this song number 1 in the week Thatcher dies’. It kind of worked, but will the BBC play the song in the coverage of the Top 40 charts or not.

On the BBC blog Radio 1 controller Ben Cooper said that he this is not an easy decision.

There are times as Controller of Radio 1 when you find yourself caught between a rock and a hard place. The rise up the charts of the Judy Garland song “Ding Dong! The Witch is Dead” is one of those moments.

I find the campaign to promote the song in response to the death of Baroness Thatcher as distasteful as anyone and I’ve thought long and hard about how to respond.

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.

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.

I’ve therefore 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. Most of them are too young to remember Lady Thatcher and many will be baffled by the sound of the Munchkins from the Wizard of Oz.

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. (BBC Blog)

According to David Jones (Chief Market Strategist), in the video below, it is not the job of the BBC to censor the song. However the new chief of the BBC, Tony Hall has to make the decision.

In the news feature below, Colin Paterson (Entertainment Correspondent) says that the song itself is not offensive.The song disappeared and reappeared in the charts. This unclear situation can be compared with God Save the Queen of the Sex Pistols in 1977 during the silver jubilee of the queen. The market has spoken

For the singer and BBC Radio 6 DJ, Jarvis Cocker, this is an issue of free speech and the song should be played in full.

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