The classic rock song in question is Money For Nothing, by British rockers Dire Straits. The ruling states that due to a complaint from a listener of CHOZ-FM in St. Johns, Newfoundland an investigation was launched based on his outrage of hearing the word faggot three times in the twenty-five year old song.
The word faggot has apparently become a lightning rod as the council states in the official ruling that even if the word was at one time acceptable it has evolved and become unacceptable in most circumstances in today’s society.
[...] [L]ike other racially driven words in the English language, “faggot” is one that, even if entirely or marginally acceptable in earlier days, is no longer so. The Panel finds that it has fallen into the category of unacceptable designations on the basis of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, marital status or physical or mental disability. In addition to the terms already so categorized by previous CBSC Panels, there are undoubtedly other racial epithets (not yet the subject of CBSC Panel decisions) that would likely fall into the category of words that are inherently problematic. In any event, the Atlantic Regional Panel concludes that the use of the word “faggot” in the song “Money for Nothing” was unacceptable for broadcast and that, by broadcasting an unedited version of the song, CHOZ-FM breached Clause 2 of the CAB Code of Ethics, and Clauses 2, 7 and 9 of the Equitable Portrayal Code. The Panel notes parenthetically that the song would not otherwise fall afoul of any of the foregoing broadcast standards if suitably edited.
Now from my singular point of view this creates a very dangerous precedent when a government body can arbitrarily modify my listening and viewing choices. Also the question of artistic integrity comes into play, according to a 1985 interview between Dire Straits lead Mark Knopfler and music critic Bill Flanagan the concept and lyrics for the song were based on an actual encounter with a guy working in a Custom Kitchen and Television store.
The lead character in “Money for Nothing” is a guy who works in the hardware department in a television/custom kitchen/refrigerator/microwave appliance store. He’s singing the song. I wrote the song when I was actually in the store. I borrowed a bit of paper and started to write the song down in the store. I wanted to use a lot of the language that the real guy actually used when I heard him, because it was more real. It just went better with the song, it was more muscular. I actually used “little faggot,” but there are a couple of good “motherfuckers”in there. I wanted to do a second version that way but I never had time. I’d still love to be able to do it. Even if just the band had it, because it would be the real version. I mean that is the way people speak. I think people still get the general idea. You can use other words that will suggest the general feel.
Now please don’t get me wrong here I am not for one instant advocating the advancement of hate speech against any one group. But the audacity of a governmental body to arbitrarily decide that a song is not in lock step with “our” Canadian values after some 25 years of continuous airplay is verging on insanity. What happens if the council decides to really open up the jacket liners and have a hard look at some of the lyrics that have been out there for decades?
Will the Kink’s Lola, an ode to a transvestite hookup in a London bar become too hot for Canadian ears? What about Lou Reed’s classic Take a Walk on the Wild Side? We have been hearing about “Candy, from out on the island” for over two decades now.
Will we follow American preacher Jimmy Swaggart in his ancient crusade against Sting and his epic Murder by Numbers? After all it describes the planning of a cold-blooded murder. How about Don’t Stand So Close To Me, a song that describes an inappropriate relationship between a teenage girl and her school teacher?
The point is that I could go on for hours and hours listing song and artists that someone could potentially find offensive. Now the CBSC ruling does allow for the editing of the song allowing it to be played on Canadian airways, but honestly why bother. The song is older than dirt anyway and it’s airplay before this incidence couldn’t have measured more than a few times a week in most Canadian radio markets. Wouldn’t it have been prudent to just quietly “suggest” to stations around the country that the song’s airing should be limited to age appropriate hours?
Instead the council has ignited a firestorm of controversy and exposing a whole new generation of listeners to a band their parents listened to before they were born. The whole thing just makes no sense, I mean come on, we live in a society where people are free to make choices. That includes the choice to turn the station on the radio dial. Nothing was stopping this one person from doing exactly that. I am not a huge fan of the Jerry Springer Show and I exercise my right not to watch it vigorously.
But that doesn’t mean that I should stop you from watching it if you chose to. I think we lose something as a society when we forget the words of Voltaire. I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.
Since I’ve talked this subject to death let’s have a little look at the evidence to see exactly what all the fuss is about. From Dire Straits – On the Night Tour. Money for Nothing.
Story Update: In an act of defiance Edmonton’s K-97 fm has decided to play Money for Nothing in it’s entirety from 8 to 9 pm Edmonton time for the entire hour on Jan 14, 2011. Please join me in listening to this broadcast or add your voice to the growing number of Canadians who are outraged at this unwarranted use of regulatory power.
- Faggot lyric disqualifies Dire Straits hit from Canadian radio play (theglobeandmail.com)
- Censor Dire Straits song: broadcast panel (cbc.ca)
- Canada Bans 1985 Dire Straits Song ‘Money for Nothing’ from Airplay Over ‘Faggot’ Lyric (towleroad.com)
- Dire Straits’ song should be censored: broadcast panel (ctv.ca)
- Dire Straits song ruled unfit for Canada (thestar.com)
- Edmonton station to flout decision on Dire Straits tune (canada.com)
- Broadcasting council rules Dire Straits tune too offensive for radio (canada.com)
- Edmonton station to flout decision on ‘offensive’ Dire Straits tune (canada.com)
- “Dire Straits’ song ‘Money for Nothing’ banned from Canadian radio…” and related posts (gayandright.blogspot.com)
- Pop experts dissect Dire Straits brouhaha (cbc.ca)