You can express your political views on air, but rapping them gets trickier.
In February of last year, the BBC’s Radio 1xtra censored the word “Palestine” from an after hours music show that included a freestyle performance by rapper Mic Righteous. On Tuesday, the BBC Trust defended that decision, saying that using the word would have compromised the network’s neutrality.
The word “Palestine” was replaced with the sound of broken glass.
In the ruling, the BBC said that Mic Rigteous was “expressing a political viewpoint, which, if it had been aired in isolation, would have compromised impartiality.” The network said political debate was not appropriate for a late-night music show in which opposing views are not aired.
The New Statesmen points out that BBC’s guidelines allow for “individual expression” of entertainers, provided it “reflect[s] a broad range of the available perspectives over time.”
BBC does not often censor music lyrics, but there was a time when it once did. Wikipedia has a comprehensive list of songs banned since the 1930s by the BBC, much of which were finally released in 2008.
Some of the songs were banned over concerns about taste and decency, though many others were not allowed because of political or religious subject matter. Satirical and sentimental songs were also once a concern. The BBC’s Dance Music Policy Committee, set up in the 1930s, gave this amusing directive about sentimental music in 1942:
We have recently adopted a policy of excluding sickly sentimentality which, particularly when sung by certain vocalists, can become nauseating and not at all in keeping with what we feel to be the need of the public in this country in the fourth year of war.
The “Auntie knows best” sentiment has earned the BBC the nick name “Auntie BBC.”
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