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The BBC’s censorship of ‘Fairytale of New York’ only proves their ego is bigger than their audience

Chris Sweeney
Chris Sweeney

Chris Sweeney is an author and columnist who has written for newspapers such as The Times, Daily Express, The Sun and Daily Record, along with several international-selling magazines. Follow him on Twitter @Writes_Sweeney

Chris Sweeney is an author and columnist who has written for newspapers such as The Times, Daily Express, The Sun and Daily Record, along with several international-selling magazines. Follow him on Twitter @Writes_Sweeney

The BBC’s censorship of ‘Fairytale of New York’ only proves their ego is bigger than their audience
The annual debate about the festive hit’s lyrics has surfaced once again, with Radio 1 proudly announcing it will only air the clean version, in yet another display of cheap, self-aggrandising virtue signalling.

Christmas is a time of tradition. Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, the Queen's speech, awful jokes tumbling out of crackers, plus the annual overload of turkey, stuffing, and mince pies. But there's also another British staple of the festive period. The navel-gazing around the song ‘Fairytale of New York’ – a collaboration between Celtic rockers the Pogues, fronted by Shane MacGowan, and deceased singer Kirsty MacColl.

It was released back in 1987 and is the most played Christmas song on British radio in the 21st century.

Also on rt.com ‘More of us offended by your censorship’: BBC slammed online for editing out ‘derogatory’ words in popular Christmas song

Its popularity has seen it breach the Top 20 every year since 2005. But its lyrics are what make it an annual discussion point. The song is supposed to mimic a volatile couple having a back and forth argument, with MacColl's infamously including the line “You scumbag, you maggot, you cheap lousy faggot,” said in response to MacGowan branding her “an old slut on junk.”

So with it almost being time to start opening our advent calendars, the BBC has fired the starting pistol on the ‘Fairytale of New York’ Summit 2020. They did the same in 2007, when they dubbed out the offending words on Radio 1 but reversed that decision and reverted to the original – and now, 13 years later, we are again having a debate over the festive ditty. 

Their argument is that Radio 1's intended audience, aged between 15 and 24, were “particularly sensitive to derogatory terms for gender and sexuality.” How does that square with it currently giving heavy rotation to Ariana Grande's ‘Positions’? The title refers to precisely what you're thinking.

But not only is it classic virtue-signalling from Radio 1, it's the equivalent of squashing water. When the song came out, the BBC's reach was mammoth. Today there's YouTube, Spotify, Apple Music, and a variety of other platforms that the younger generation use. Not many 24-year-olds will even remember manually tuning into a radio frequency or adjusting an aerial for better reception. They're used to creating their own playlist, and the concept of having no control over what records they hear is alien. So this cack-handed attempt to curate what the younger generation are influenced by is merely about scoring publicity points with a load of leftie cheerleaders.

The BBC's fatalistic mission is compounded by Radio 2 (Europe's most popular station by audience), as they will continue to play the original. And on the self-styled hipster 6 Music, individual presenters will be able to choose which version they prefer.

The messaging is wrong on so many fronts. Are older people happy to hear homosexual and misogynistic slurs? Are listeners supposed to take their moral code from DJs who arrive at work by electric scooters in cargo pants? It's an unbridled mess.

The song is not even about Britain; it's a cheesy snapshot of the Big Apple, with references to the ubiquitous NYPD, Frank Sinatra, and Broadway. It's sentimental dirge and depressing, and does nothing to inspire any Christmas cheer. The fact that BBC bosses have spent time weighing up what they should do proves how insular British society is becoming.

Either play it, or don't – no one is interested in your input into matters of appropriateness. 

The BBC, however, is determined to project a righteous image, of being clued-up and in touch with what people want. If that was the case, why did the regular Ofcom warn in a report that they're in danger of creating a “lost generation” as younger people tune out of their content? This latest chapter in the ‘Fairytale of New York’ saga will only exacerbate that, as young adults are left bemused at the headless chickens huddled together in the BBC bunker telling them that some words are “too risqué” for their delicate ears.

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Generation Z don't look at the BBC with any deference, and why should they? Radio 1's boss is 44. He's old enough to be their dad, and what self-respecting teenager takes music advice about offending words from their parents? The song's lyrics are inconsequential and a smokescreen. This is a box-ticking exercise by BBC management, whose egos are bigger than their listening figures.

And come on... who wouldn't rather listen to ‘Last Christmas’ by Wham, anyway?

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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