Ding Dong, the BBC Is Wrong

Marc Champion writes editorials on international affairs. He was previously Istanbul bureau chief for the Wall Street Journal. He was also an editor at the Financial Times, the editor-in-chief of the Moscow Times and a correspondent for the Independent in Washington, the Balkans and Moscow. He is based in London.
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The BBC has found itself at the center of a controversy over former U.K. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who died last week after a long illness, and the late Wicked Witch of the West, who was killed in an unfortunate house accident more than seven decades ago.

Since Thatcher's death, an anti-Thatcher Facebook campaign has pushed "Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead," a song from the 1939 movie "The Wizard of Oz," near the top of the U.K. charts. BBC Radio 1 airs a top-of-the-charts show every Sunday night, and at first there was some question whether it would play the song. Brits still remember the Beeb's decision not to play the Sex Pistols' anti-monarchist song "God Save the Queen" during Queen Elizabeth II's 25th silver jubilee celebration in 1977. (Yes, it seems silly now.)

The BBC has now said it will play a clip from the song as a news item. But it should play the whole thing -- not only to show it favors free speech, but also because Thatcher would have relished the confrontation.

As of midnight April 11, the top-selling song of the week was a dance track with a funny video by Duke Dumont, "Need U (100%)." It had sold 40,000 copies. "Ding Dong" was 12,000 downloads behind and could well catch up.

Maybe sanity will prevail and the new single "Gentleman," by South Korea's Psy, will roar to the top at the last minute, proving that most young Brits have something better to do than make a crass point about the death of an 87-year-old former politician.

People shouldn't have to pretend they like someone they hated just because that someone is now dead. But there's something disturbing about celebrating death -- even those of serial killers or Osama Bin Laden, let alone a popularly elected politician.

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To contact the author on this story:
Marc Champion at mchampion7@bloomberg.net