Ding Dong: Controversial decision for the BBC

Following a Facebook campaign in 2007, The Wizard of Oz song – ‘Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead’ is now number three on the official music chart (number one on […]

Following a Facebook campaign in 2007, The Wizard of Oz song – ‘Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead’ is now number three on the official music chart (number one on iTunes), following the death of Margaret Thatcher.

Margaret Thatcher-The 'Iron Lady

Margaret Thatcher-The ‘Iron Lady

An online campaign 5 years ago strove to get the 52 second song to number 1 the week that Margaret Thatcher died. Currently sitting at third place, it is likely that this will happen on Sunday, leaving the BBC with a hard decision on their hands.

The final line of the song from the 1930s movie reads “Let the joyous news be spread The Wicked Old Witch at last is dead!” but only 5 seconds will be played on air.

Describing himself as being “between a rock and a hard place” BBC Radio 1’s controller, Ben Cooper said: “I am not going to play it in full but I will play a clip of it”.

Margaret Thatcher, much like Marmite, was loved my some but hated by many. Those who disliked her claimed that she did not care about the poor and put millions of people out of work; on the other side of the coin many claim that she changed the UK for the better and saved our economy. Thatcher died last week aged 87; her state funeral is set to take place on Wednesday with the presence of the Queen and Prince Philip alongside other heads of state.

Once branded ‘Maggie Thatcher The Milk Snatcher’ it is fair to say that she was a controversial Prime Minister and even in death she has caused a massive debate as to whether the song should be played on the radio.

Margaret Thatcher’s former private secretary, Sir Gerald Howarth, said: “If the BBC stoop so low as to broadcast this song, it will offend a great many people.”, whereas Tory MP Rob Wilson tweeted: “It should be played she didn’t free millions to censor a tiny number of idiots.”. Ben Cooper, BBC Radio 1’s controller said “If I wasn’t to play it then I would be seen as banning it and that would bring up issues of freedom of speech and censorship”.

94 year old Ruth Duccini, one of three surviving munchkins from the 1939 film, has said that the campaign is not only an insult to Thatcher but also threatens the legacy of the Judy Garland movie. Duccini, along with 123 other munchkins, sang the song in the original movie and has said that “When we were filming the movie no one intended it to be used in this way. I am ashamed, I really am.”. Another munchkin, 91 year old Jerry Maren, has also spoken on the matter and said “It is shocking that the song is being used to celebrate the death of someone.”.

BBC Radio 1

BBC Radio 1

Ben Cooper’s final decision is that part of the song will be played “in a news environment.” In an interview with BBC Newsbeat Reporter Nomia Iqbal he said that “It is a compromise and it is a difficult compromise to come to because you have very difficult and emotional arguments on both sides of the fence and let’s not forget you also have a family that is grieving for a loved one who has yet to be buried.” Cooper was not alone in his decision and stated that he “referred up to the Director of Radio and also to Director General Tony Hall” with his idea and they all agreed “that this was the right way forward.”

In his BBC blog, Ben Cooper said that “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.” He also believes that “To ban the record…completely would risk giving the campaign the oxygen of further publicity and might inflame an already delicate situation.”

Capital Radio are also in a quandary as to whether to play the song on their own chart show too.