Radio 1 tells presenters to play different Fairytale of New York

Radio 1 tells presenters to play different Fairytale of New York

BBC Radio 1 bosses defend decision to play its ‘alternative version’ of Christmas favourite Fairytale of New York because ‘young audiences’ are ‘particularly sensitive’ to ‘derogatory terms for gender and sexuality’ in the original

  • Presenters for BBC Radio 1 must play an edited version of Fairytale of New York 
  • ‘Haggard’ in place of ‘f****t’ and the word ‘sl*t’ is muted, the corporation has said
  •  Insider said boss decided to change as younger listeners not familiar with song 

BBC Radio 1 insiders have defended a decision to play its ‘alternative version’ of Fairytale of New York to avoid offending younger audiences who are ‘particularly sensitive’ to derogatory terms for gender and sexuality. 

The station decided to edit the words ‘f****t’ and ‘sl*t’ from the track – sung by Pogues frontman Shane MacGowan and Kirsty MacColl in 1987. 

The lyrics appears in the Radio 1’s version in 2019, but this year an older version will be played in which MacColl sings ‘haggard’ rather than ‘f****t’. The word ‘sl*t’ will be muted. 

BBC Radio 1 decided to edit the words ‘f****t’ and ‘sl*t’ from the track – sung by Pogues frontman Shane MacGowan and Kirsty MacColl in 1987. Pictured: Kirsty MacColl and Shane MacGowan, who performed the track

Insiders told MailOnline the move was a response to concerns hearing the words ‘sl*t’ and ‘f****t’ on BBC Radio 1 would not ‘meet the expectations’ of its listeners. 

Another insider told The Sun: ‘The feeling is that Radio 1’s listeners are younger and may not be as familiar with this song — so it has been decided that the lyrics should be edited. This Christmas only the new version will be broadcast on Radio 1.’

BBC Radio 2 has opted to air the original version of the track while Radio 6 presenters have the choice of either rendition.

Shane Macgowan has defended the use of language in the song, saying in 2017: ‘The word was used by the character because it fitted with the way she would speak and with her character.

‘She is not supposed to be a nice person, or even a wholesome person. She is a woman of a certain generation at a certain time in history and she is down on her luck and desperate.’  

The broadcaster’s unedited use of Fairytale of New York has caused controversy in recent years, with a performance of the track in last year’s Gavin and Stacey Christmas special receiving 866 complaints.

The one-off episode was watched by 11.6million viewers when it aired, but some were upset when the slur ‘f****t’ was not omitted from Nessa and Bryn’s rendition. 

However, the BBC defended the use of the expletive at the time, claiming when The Pogues wrote the song in 1987 the word was not linked to homosexuality.    

The BBC decided to edit the words ‘f****t’ and ‘sl*t’ from the track – released by The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl in 1987 – in an apparent bid to avoid causing offence over the festive period

In the updated version, the word ‘f****t’ is changed to ‘haggard’ and ‘sl*t’ is muted

A spokesman said: ‘The descent of their relationship is reflected in the increasingly abusive and offensive terms they use to address each other; insults which are intended to reflect the language that such characters might have used in that era. 

‘The origin of the word includes a definition which describes it as a contemptuous and antiquated word for laziness, and the author of the song has cited this inference behind his inclusion of that line.

‘While the word ‘f****t’ is now widely acknowledged as having the potential to offend, the song never suggests or implies that this is, or was ever, an appropriate way to address another person, nor does it link it to homosexuality.’

Last December, DJ Alex Dyke, 57, ranted to BBC listeners that he was ‘no longer comfortable’ with having the ‘nasty’ Pogues’ festive hit on his playlist. 

Prior to hosting a show on BBC Radio Solent, Dyke had tweeted that he wanted the song – regularly voted the nation’s favourite Christmas number – banned, sharing some of the lyrics he had taken offence at.

A BBC spokesperson commented: ‘This was Alex’s decision. There is no ban. We have a strict music policy that we expect to be followed.’  

The BBC used an old recording of British singer MacColl to edit the line ‘you cheap lousy f****t’ to ‘you’re cheap and you’re haggard’

Fairytale of New York has sold close to 1.5 million copies and is officially the UK’s most played Christmas song.

In 2007, BBC Radio 1 edited out the controversial words from the song.

But the station quickly backtracked on the decision following a backlash from listeners. 

The BBC said today: ‘We know the song is considered a Christmas classic and we will continue to play it this year, with our radio stations choosing the version of the song most relevant for their audience.’

Radio 2 said: ‘We have considered this issue very carefully and have decided to play the original song. As always, we will continue to monitor our listeners’ views on the lyrics of this very popular Christmas song.’

And 6 Music added: ‘The Fairytale of New York was made in a moment of time and times change. As we’re a radio station for every music lover, we have made an edited version available as well as the original, so presenters have the choice.’ 

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