Why we're playing 'Ding Dong The Witch is Dead' on Radio 1's Sunday 14 April 2013 Chart Show

Friday 12 April 2013, 15:35

Ben Cooper Ben Cooper Controller

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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.

Ben Cooper is Controller, BBC Radio 1.

A statement was also published on the BBC Media Centre website earlier this afternoon.


* [ Updated Sunday 14 April 2013 at 21:20 ] At the time of writing this blog post, it was believed that the song 'Ding Dong! The Witch is Dead' was to be credited to Judy Garland. Since the release of the charts on Sunday 14 April 2013, the song has been credited to the Wizard of Oz Film Cast by the Official Charts Company.

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    Comment number 1.

    How long is "a brief excerpt" of a 0:51 second track? I would have thought the whole furore over this, which includes your blog post is exactly what the organisers of the stunt were hoping to achieve

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    The BBC is like the wet kid in class that you really wish would once, just once, stand up to the bullies. The campaign to ban this song was a campaign of BBC bullying whipped up by the tabloids, especially the Daily Mail and the Maily Telegraph (sic) for their own interests, and as part of an ongoing campaign against the BBC.

    The BBC should have maintained the high ground. The song is legitimately in the charts, it contains no profanity, racial slurs, misogyny or any of the other things that many of the chart songs do contain. It doesn't contain political lyrics, and is not a protest song. It should have just been played, like all the other chart songs, without any comment that would link it to any political view.

    The BBC has been weakened even further by today's decision, and will now be asked to censor all sorts of things in future, with this held up as precedent.

    Finally, Paul Dacre has done more to promote this Wizard of Oz song than anyone else this week — which I guess makes him a friend of Dorothy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    Was this 'orchestrated' or a natural reaction by a large proportion of the population? I certainly didn't hear of any organised effort to promote the song.

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    Whatever your decision, you were never going to win

    Your last sentence sums it up

    Good choice

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    Auntie essentially following The Sun's leader column today which told the Beeb to play the track but 'disassociate themselves from the sentiment behind it.'


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