This evening, I’m going to be doing something that most 42 year olds would never dream of – unless they were stuck in a car with their teenage children. I’m going to listen to a Chart Show.
Natch, my curiosity has been driven by this week’s furore over Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead, and the debate about whether the BBC is being morally right or caving into pressure for not playing it. Some have accused Ben Cooper, the Radio 1 Controller, of putting up a weak defence when explaining the decision. Too cautious, said the critics. As for BBC itself, it was suggested that the use of the word “distasteful” in a press statement only served to politicise the matter even further.
But this is a quite different BBC from the one that used to exercise its right to remain silent on such matters. Often for several days, and on a couple of occasions, a decision which has led to the downfall of senior managers.
And yet – as I hinted in my last blog – there’s been a deafening silence from the Commercial Radio sector, which faces exactly the same dilemma. My colleagues in the Meeja Press tried for several days, without success, to get a comment from Global Radio, which produces the Big Top 40 show. So I decided to ask the boss directly.
You won’t be surprised to learn that Ashley Tabor (pictured) wasn’t playing ball. He’d been tweeting about some of the fabulous acts on Britain’s Got Talent when I asked the question. His reply : tune in from 4pm to find out.
And although Global hasn’t been hounded in the press over this one, the company is still wrestling with several corporate dilemmas. Firstly, will the song even make the Top 10? Well, since the Big Top 40 counts downloads right up until 6pm, we won’t know. Although if it doesn’t, the problem goes away (as it does for the BBC).
Secondly, the Big Top 40 doesn’t just air on Global stations. As a network chart it can be heard on those owned by other groups, including its arch-rivals Bauer in Scotland and the North of England, Orion across the Midlands, and UKRD which has a smattering of stations across the country. Should their views be taken into account? Have talks between the groups already happened? Again, we don’t know.
The third dilemma lies less with Global and more with the regulator OFCOM. Should anyone file a complaint, who is liable for the consequences? Global produce the show, but it’s down to individual stations to operate within the OFCOM guidelines on taste. It would only take one person to be “offended” for OFCOM to step in.
Ultimately, this is all storm in a teacup stuff. And perhaps it’s only right that the licence funded BBC should be subjected to more scrutiny than a private business. But whatever happen at 6.55 this evening may well set a precedent for the next time a high profile figure dies. Although that won’t stop certain sections of the press creating another almighty ding dong.