All entries for April 2013

April 14, 2013

The Ding–Dong Thatcher controversy

I’m not going to talk at length about the whole Thatcher business, suffice to say the reaction and back and forth on social media has been quite interesting.

But then 1000s of people go out and buy “Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead” on iTunes, and the BBC has a very public fit over whether it should play it or not. Some have said the BBC is caught in a tough position: play it and be deemed distasteful or not play it and be deemed censorious.

But had the BBC wanted to keep it’s nose clean, they should have just played it. Because it’s not whether you play it or not, it’s how you play it. People have gone out and bought it just waiting for that moment on the chart show to see how it gets acknowledged.

For the BBC, therefore, all they need do is brief the host to just play the thing without comment, joke, or underhand reference: “And at number two here’s a classic number from The Wizard of Oz”. All those tuning in to see what the BBC say let out a sigh, see nothing interesting has happened, and the thing is done. There’s no clip to go viral or anything like that. It’d be a non-story.

Instead the BBC made a big song and dance over “will we play it or not?” in the end deciding not to play it in the chart show, but play a clip of it in part of a news story. I can’t think of a worse possible choice. Firstly you annoy one bunch of people by not playing it, then you annoy the other bunch even more by explicitly linking it to Thatcher in a news story, making everyone aware of the context and giving voice to the movement that you were trying to avoid engaging in the first place. It’s one of the dumbest things I’ve ever heard and benefits no-one.

When the BBC banned “Smack My Bitch Up” by The Prodigy many years ago, they played a lyric-less version on the chart show. They didn’t then run a news story where the host read out all of the lyrics to the song to explain why they didn’t play it in the first place.

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