The BBC’s ‘Liar Liar GE2017’ ban is pathetic

Last week marked the 40th anniversary of the release of ‘God Save the Queen’ by the Sex Pistols. Back in 1977, the BBC refused to play the song because of its controversial lyrics. Four decades on, and the Beeb is still banning songs from the radio.

The latest track to be censored is ‘Liar Liar GE2017’ by Captain SKA – a group of session musicians who have previously released political reggae songs such as ‘US Healthcare Explained’ and ‘What’s the Point of Nick Clegg?’. Their new track chastises prime minister Theresa May’s election campaign and policies. It’s a remake of a single the group released in 2010, condemning the coalition government, which topped the UK reggae chart.

‘Liar Liar GE2017’ has been downloaded tens of thousands of times this week. It briefly topped the iTunes charts and is likely to make the official Top Three. But the BBC has said that it will not play the song on the BBC Radio 1 chart show, regardless of how high it ranks. ‘We do not ban songs or artists’, it said in a statement. ‘However, our editorial guidelines require us to remain impartial, and the UK is currently in an election period so we will not be playing the song.’

Commercial radio stations such as Capital FM and Heart are also choosing not to play it, even though they have no requirement to be impartial like the publicly funded BBC.

Now, this track is nothing like ‘God Save the Queen’ – it’s a harmless novelty that no one is complaining about. Which makes this ban all the more pathetic. Impartiality rules are one thing, but suggesting that the election might be swung by Captain SKA projects a low view of the public. What’s more, the song is easily found on YouTube and on streaming services. This ban will only boost its profile.

BBC Two’s Daily Politics did play a clip of the song this week, but it was immediately followed by a pro-May Hindi pop song put out by Conservative Friends of India. If this is the BBC’s idea of balance, it’s a joke – and no one’s laughing.

Christian Butler is a spiked columnist. Follow him on Twitter: @CPAButler

Watch the video for ‘Liar Liar GE2017’:

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