Thatcher protest puts BBC in bind

LONDON — Opponents of the late Margaret Thatcher are taking a kind of musical revenge on the former prime minister, pushing the song ‘‘Ding Dong! The Witch is Dead’’ up the British charts in a posthumous protest over her polarizing policies.

By Friday the online campaign had propelled the ‘‘Wizard of Oz’’ song to number one on British iTunes and into the top five of the music chart used by the BBC to compile its weekly radio countdown.

David Karpf, who studies online campaigns, said the chart battle was an example of a new kind of protest enabled by social media — ‘‘A way for people to signal protest en masse without shouting from the rooftops.’’


The campaign has caused a headache for the BBC. With the ditty near the top of the charts, the broadcaster faced the prospect of airing the words ‘‘The Wicked Witch is Dead!’’ on its Sunday countdown show, just days before Thatcher’s funeral, scheduled for Wednesday.

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Some lawmakers from Thatcher’s Conservative Party had called for the publicly funded broadcaster to drop the song, while others warned that such a move would mean censoring a form of dissent.

The BBC said it would broadcast only part of the tune — along with a news item explaining why it was there.

BBC director general Tony Hall said that while the broadcaster found the campaign ‘‘distasteful and inappropriate,’’ he and other executives had decided the song should not be banned — but should not be broadcast in full, either.

Associated Press