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BBC in dilemma as anti-Thatcher song climbs chart

RAPHAEL SATTER, Associated Press

Publication: theday.com

Published April 12. 2013 12:00PM   Updated April 12. 2013 3:15PM

LONDON — 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.

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