BBC defends 'Gavin And Stacey' Christmas special after complaints over language

Ruth Jones and Rob Brydon during the filming for the Graham Norton Show at BBC Studioworks 6 Television Centre, Wood Lane, London, to be aired on BBC One on Friday evening. Picture date: Thursday December 19, 2019. Photo credit should read: PA Images on behalf of So TV (Photo by David Parry/PA Images via Getty Images)
Ruth Jones and Rob Brydon on the Graham Norton Show (David Parry/PA Images via Getty Images)

The BBC has defended the use of the word “f****t” in the Gavin And Stacey Christmas special, following hundreds of complaints from viewers.

The word was used as the characters Bryn (Rob Brydon) and Nessa (Ruth Jones) sang The Pogues song Fairytale Of New York during a karaoke session at the pub.

The original track from Kirsty MacColl and The Pogues contains the word and it was not censored for the festive special, which upset some viewers.

The BBC has confirmed it received 866 complaints for the episode, with some of those complaints about homophobic language.

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However, the corporation said in a statement that “there was no intention to offend viewers” and that the 1987 song does not link the word to homosexuality.

The statement said: “Fairytale Of New York is a well-established, much-loved Christmas song which tells the story of a troubled couple in 1940s New York. 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,” the statement said.

“Nessa and Bryn were seen singing the original lines and we can assure you there was no intention to offend viewers.

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“We understand that some people will find it offensive in any context but we also recognise that the song is widely played and enjoyed in its original form.”

The BBC also noted that broadcasting watchdog Ofcom “have previously stated that they feel it is ‘unlikely that audiences would widely perceive [the song] as a serious attempt to denigrate the homosexual community’.”