Thatcher Ding Dong! - BBC Chart

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There are a few occasions when people buy a song to make a point. It happens when a song is banned. It happens when folk try to keep the X-Factor winner off the top of the charts; and it happened, most notably, in April 2013, following the death of Margaret Thatcher.

A social media campaign, boosted by broadcast media and the press, led those not awfully keen on Mrs Thatcher's legacy to download a song in protest. It's not the first time that it was the indignant coverage which delivered a broadcast controversy, more than the act itself. Without mainstream media coverage, it's likely that the song may not have sold in sufficient quantities to cause the BBC's chart headache.

The title of the song 'Ding Dong! the Witch is Dead' from the 1939 Garland film 'Wizard of Oz' offers a clue to the debate which commanded acres of press and broadcast media coverage leading up to BBC Top 40 on Sunday April 14th. Should it be played, or not? Should the BBC be accused of censorship or insensitivity?

In the end, an astute BBC compromise chose to bathe the track in context by handling the chart position as a news item.

In another wise move, once policy was decided, the BBC put forward Radio 1's Controller Ben Cooper to take ownership: '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'.

As it turned out, 'Ding Dong!' reached Number Two;' with the mischievous 'I'm in Love with Margaret Thatcher' by the Notsensibles hitting number 35. Such was the drama of the night, that those who'd never listened to the chart since Tom Browne hosted it were tuning in like teenagers, and searching for a cassette to record it on.

What would Mrs. Thatcher's view have been? Self evidently, we will never know. Most people suggest she would likely have seen this as a familiar expression of opinion about her. She would likely have ignored it and just got on with red boxes rather than spending quite as much time as everyone else debating it.

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Apr 14, 2013, 05:59 PM
2 comments
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__DrewRadio

__DrewRadio - about 4 years ago

I don't recall any part of the purchase process asking motives for buying a song, so it's not even accurate to say everyone who did so was 'part of a campaign'. Some would just have liked its quirkiness - hearing it either for the first time, or after many years. It's fun for the kids, free from sexual & drug messages, contains no adult language and not itself political.. so totally broadcastable.

What's the value of a chart show which doesn't play the #2 song on that basis?

__DrewRadio

__DrewRadio - about 4 years ago

The idea it was deemed more respectful to play just the "offensive" hook and then have a reporter highlighting Thatcher's failings is hilarious. Rather than spending under a minute just playing the song without reference to politics or any motive for buying it, they spent 2 minutes drawing attention to the campaign and controversy of Thatcher - on a chart show.