A BBC radio channel has reversed its decision to bleep out the word “faggot” from the Pogues and Kirsty MacColl Christmas song Fairytale of New York.

BBC Radio 1 had previously decided to censor the song over concerns it may cause offence to gay people.

But in a statement released this afternoon station controller Andy Parfitt said the decision was “wrong” and would be reversed.

“Radio 1 does not play homophobic lyrics or condone bullying of any kind,” he said.

“It is not always easy to get this right, mindful of our responsibility to our young audience. The unedited version will be played from now on.

“While we would never condone prejudice of any kind, we know our audiences are smart enough to distinguish between maliciousness and creative freedom.

“In the context of this song, I do not feel that there is any negative intent behind the use of the words, hence the reversal of the decision.”

Human rights activist Peter Tatchell had earlier come out in favour of the controversial decision.

“BBC Radio 1 is right to bleep out the word faggot. They would do the same if the words n*gger, paki or yid were used in this song,” he said.

“I challenge anyone who defends the use of the word faggot in these lyrics to state publicly that they would also defend the right of singers to use word n*gger as a term of abuse in a song.

“They won’t and that makes them cowardly homophobic hypocrites.”