BBC in hot seat as anti-Thatcher song climbs chart
By RAPHAEL SATTER Associated Press April 12, 2013 1:30PM
Anti-Thatcher protesters react to the death of former British Prime Minister as they gather at Trafalgar Square in London, Monday, April 8, 2013. Thatcher's spokesman, Tim Bell, said the former prime minister died from a stroke Monday morning at the Ritz hotel in London. Flags were flown at half-staff at Buckingham Palace, Parliament and Downing Street for the 87 year old. Queen Elizabeth II authorized a ceremonial funeral, a step short of a state funeral to be held for Thatcher at St. Paul's Cathedral in London next week with military honors. 'The Witch is Dead' on T-shirt refers to an Anti-Thatcher song. (AP Photo/Sang Tan)
LONDON (AP) — The BBC came up with an awkward compromise Friday over “Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead,” a song that is zooming up the music charts in a posthumous protest against Margaret Thatcher.
The online campaign to drive the “Wizard of Oz” song to the No. 1 spot on the U.K. singles chart was launched by Thatcher critics shortly after the former prime minister died Monday of a stroke at age 87. Opponents have tried to buy as many versions of the song as possible to protest the former British leader’s divisive policies.
As of Friday, the song was No. 1 on British iTunes and in the top five of the music chart used by the BBC to compile its weekly radio countdown.
The song campaign strongly divided opinion in the U.K., with many people saying it was in bad taste and calling on the BBC to promise not to broadcast the song.
The BBC usually broadcasts the best-selling hits on its official music chart show, but some lawmakers from Thatcher’s Conservative Party had urged the state-funded broadcaster to drop the song from its countdown. Others warned that such a move would be censoring dissent.
Under pressure from all sides, the BBC came up with a decision that can be criticized by both Thatcher fans and critics. It said it would broadcast only part of the song on Sunday’s radio show, along with a news item explaining why it was a hit this week.
John Whittingdale, a lawmaker from Thatcher’s Conservative party, told the Daily Mail tabloid that many would find the ditty “deeply insensitive.”
“This is an attempt to manipulate the charts by people trying to make a political point,” he said.
But not all Tories agreed that the song should be yanked.
“No song should be banned by the BBC unless its lyrics are pre-watershed,” said former Conservative lawmaker Louise Mensch, referring to British restrictions on adult content.
Mensch, a prominent Conservative voice on Twitter, said in a message posted to the site that Thatcher, famously known as “the Iron Lady,” would not have wanted it any other way.
“Thatcher stood for freedom,” she wrote.