Why the BBC's pop music station won't play the original 'Fairytale of New York'
BBC pop music channel Radio 1 won't play the original version of the popular Christmas song "Fairytale of New York" this year because it includes derogatory lyrics.Posted — Updated
The song, which was first released by The Pogues and singer Kirsty MacColl in 1987, is one of the most popular Christmas songs in the United Kingdom.
The BBC said on Thursday that the original version of the song won't be played this holiday season on Radio 1, which attracts an audience of almost 10 million listeners weekly, according to recent figures released by the broadcaster.
An edited version of the song that does not include the offensive lyrics will be played instead.
However, other BBC radio stations will be allowed to air the original version.
"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," the BBC said in a statement. The original track will still be played on Radio 2, the BBC reported, while DJs at Radio 6 Music can choose between the two versions.
The BBC declined to comment on the record when asked to explain its decision-making process. But the broadcaster reported on its own website that Radio 1 "has decided younger listeners who are unfamiliar with the track would find some of the words stark and not in line with what they would expect to hear on air."
Radio 1 has a younger target audience than some other stations including Radio 2 and Radio 6.
"Fairytale of New York" imagines an argument between a drunk and a drug addict on Christmas Eve, and includes the words "sl*t" and "f*gg*t.* The lyrics were censored by the BBC in 2007 but the broadcaster reversed course after listeners criticized the decision.
The Pogues were fronted by Shane MacGowan, while MacColl, who died in a boating accident in 2000 at the age of 41, was featured on the track.
MacGowan, 62, previously defended the lyrics to "Fairytale of New York."
He told Ireland's "The Late Late Show" in 2019 that he had intended to create an "authentic" character within the song, and that "not all characters in songs and stories are angels."
The song has long been a source of controversy. The student news publication The Tab published an article in 2018 urging people to stop singing along to the "homophobic slur."
The debate resurfaced in 2019 when the BBC aired a Christmas special of the show "Gavin and Stacey" during which two characters sung a duet of the original song, prompting criticism on social media.
CNN has contacted MacGowan's representatives for comment on the BBC's latest decision.
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