The campaign to get the song to No 1 was launched after the death of Margaret Thatcher (Reuters)

The BBC has confirmed it will not play the full version of the Judy Garland song Ding Dong! The Witch is Dead on the Official Chart Show.

A campaign to get the song to No 1 has been gathering momentum since the death of Margaret Thatcher on 8 April. The tune, from The Wizard of Oz, holds the No 3 spot and could still reach No 1 before the final weekly sales are announced.

There have been a number of criticisms that the campaign, which was essentially celebrating the death of the former prime minister, was tasteless and offensive and urged the song to be banned. In a BBC compromise, the corporation said it would play only a clip of the 55-second song during the official chart show.

The song had already climbed to No 1 in the iTunes chart.

BBC bosses said that although they found the campaign "distasteful" they did not believe the record should be banned outright.

Ben Cooper, the controller of Radio One, said: "There are times as controller of Radio 1 when you find yourself caught between a rock and a hard place. The rise up the charts of the Judy Garland song is one of those moments.

"I find the campaign to promote the song in response to the death of Baroness Thatcher as distasteful as anyone and I've thought long and hard about how to respond.

Grieving family in middle of furore

"On one side there is the understandable anger of large numbers of people who are appalled by this campaign. On the other, there is the question of whether the Chart Show - which has run since the birth of Radio 1 in 1967 - can ignore a high new entry which clearly reflects the views of a big enough portion of the record-buying public to propel it up the charts. Above all, in the middle of this furore is a grieving family.

"To ban the record from our airwaves completely would risk giving the campaign the oxygen of further publicity and might inflame an already delicate situation."

Cooper added the station will play "up to five seconds" of the 55-second song.

The BBC's new director-general, Tony Hall, said: "I understand the concerns about this campaign. I personally believe it is distasteful and inappropriate. However, I do believe it would be wrong to ban the song outright as free speech is an important principle and a ban would only give it more publicity.

"I have spoken at some length with the Director of Radio, Graham Ellis, and Radio 1 Controller, Ben Cooper. We have agreed that we won't be playing the song in full, rather treating it as a news story and playing a short extract to put it in context."

Just play the bloody thing

The corporation had been under media pressure to ban the song. The Daily Mail described the campaign as an insult and said the song was being bought by "Thatcher haters".

The Daily Telegraph ran the headline 'BBC chief refuses to ban Thatcher death song' on its front page. After the BBC decision, Telegraph editor Tony Gallagher tweeted: "No doubt the BBC has been locked in crisis meetings all day before reaching dingdong compromise. I dread to think how many people involved"

Others who had called for a ban was deputy prime minister Nick Clegg and new BBC director general Tony Hall.

John Whittingdale, a Tory MP and chairman of the culture, media and sport select committee, told the Mail: "This is an attempt to manipulate the charts by people trying to make a political point. Most people will find that offensive and deeply insensitive."

One of those supporting playing the song was Ukip leader Nigel Farage who urged the BBC: "Play the bloody thing." He said if the song got banned then "it will be No 1 for weeks".

Mark Biddiss, who started the campaign, told ITV's Daybreak that buying the song was "a very cathartic experience for a lot of people who feel that for many years they haven't been listened to".

Elsewhere, a separate counter-campaign has been set up to get the 1979 song I'm In Love With Margaret Thatcher by the punk group The Notsensibles to No 1.

The BBC has imposed full bans on songs for a variety of reasons including overtly sexual content, obscenity, for being "too political" and songs that have been deemed inappropriate in times of war or tragedy.

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