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Former Brexit Party MEP Baroness Claire Fox and TalkRADIO host Julia Hartley-Brewer blasted BBC Radio 1’s decision to play an edited version of Christmas favourite Fairytale Of New York in a bid to avoid offending listeners. Discussing the move, Ms Hartley-Brewer said: “It’s about people deciding on our behalf. ‘I don’t like these lyrics, or someone doesn’t like these lyrics and therefore they are unacceptable’.
“Even if it’s the majority of people who don’t like it, it doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be allowed.
“That’s the key. There’s seems to be so much of an appetite now for people to want there to be censorship and control.”
Echoing the radio host’s comments, Baroness Fox said: “It’s important for art. Artistic freedom is an incredibly important thing for us to defend.
“Whether you like it or not the point is somebody created that as an artistic work.”
“You can’t be in a situation whereby if you say something is offensive it should be banned… Let’s face it, Julia, people find you offensive,” she joked.
The Pogues’ gritty festive hit with Kirsty MacColl is a Christmas staple, though in recent years it has been the focus of debate over its lyrics.
The song includes the words “f****t” and “s**t”.
This year, Radio 1 will play an alternative version of the track, with the record label providing different lyrics sung by MacColl.
It is understood Radio 1 bosses were wary of offending younger listeners with derogatory terms for gender and sexuality.
Radio 2 will play the original song, but said it will continue to monitor listeners’ views. 6 Music said it has made an edited version available and will allow presenters to make the choice.
In a statement, the BBC said: “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.”
Last year, the BBC defended using the unedited version of the 1987 song in the Gavin & Stacey Christmas special.
The characters of Nessa Jenkins and Uncle Bryn sang it on the show.
Gavin & Stacey co-creator Ruth Jones, who plays Nessa, also defended using the song.
She told The Sun: “It is a different climate. But we have to remain true to the characters, to who they were. Characters in Gavin & Stacey are kind and big-hearted, I believe.
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“So I think no one is going to be intentionally hurtful. But by the same token, they’re not necessarily going to be completely politically correct or be aware of political correctness.”
Responding to the BBC’s decision, Jeff Ingold, head of media at LGBT charity Stonewall, said: “While for some people it may only be a lyric in a song, for many LGBT people the ‘f’ word has been used in a threatening and abusive way against them and may well be associated with incidents of bullying or anti-LGBT attacks.
“It’s good Radio 1 has heard the concerns of their listeners and understands the impact language can have on different people.
“While we’re pleased about this decision, tackling offensive language is one part of much wider action needed to address the challenges lesbian, gay, bi and trans people face feeling safe to be themselves in all areas of their life.”
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