The stiffs in suits at BBC Radio One are defending a decision to edit lyrics out of the song Fairytale of New York by The Pogues and the late Kirsty MacColl. The track was first released back in 1987 and is being played on Radio 1 in the run up to Christmas with the word faggot removed. The BBC says members of the audience would find it offensive. But the decision was branded “ridiculous” by Radio 1 DJ Chris Moyles, who is leading a campaign to make the 1987 song the Christmas number one.
Twenty years of playing this track unedited hasn’t really left the British listening public up in arms, or screaming ‘Equal rights for faggots.’ That’s because the British public doesn’t really care, or at least is not going to be offended by such a word. It takes you back to the days when the station had been playing Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s Relax for weeks until DJ Mike Reid had a moment of realisation and learned that the song was filled with sexual connotations.
The Beeb has long seen itself as judge and jury to what we can and cannot hear. Radio does seem to be the last bastion of ‘decency’ – whereas on TV you can hear every word a 12 year old will look for in the Oxford Dictionary after the watershed, but you won’t hear it on the radio – or very rarely anyway. This is quite remarkable when you consider that you’re actually seeing and hearing someone swear on the box in the corner, but on the wireless it’s deemed as too offensive.
TV has changed, some may say become more liberated over the years. The BBC used to show blockbusting movies carefully dubbed to alter the swear words. I remember watching Robo-Cop and rather than bleeping words like MF – they over dubbed them with ‘Mother-Crusher’ etc. This is despite the fact the film was full of gratuitous violence and mindless killing; but at least the British public could switch off the telly safe in the knowledge that if they’re ever going to get the living daylights beaten out of them in the street by an easily influence kid, at least they won’t be swore at…!