Because of one listener complaint – from my hometown, I’m sad to say – the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council has ruled that the original, unedited version of “Money for Nothing” should not be played on Canadian radio:
Money For Nothing, a classic-rock radio staple by Dire Straits, is too offensive for Canadian broadcasts because of its use of the word “faggot,” the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council has ruled.
The ruling, released Wednesday, responded to a complaint submitted to St. John’s radio station CHOZ-FM over a Feb. 1 airing of an unedited version of the song, which mentions the word three times.
The complainant wrote that the song’s lyrics were “extremely offensive” to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.
The council is an independent body created by Canadian radio and television broadcasters to review the standards of their content.
Co-written in 1985 by Mark Knopfler and Sting, Money For Nothing takes the perspective of a working-class man watching music videos, which were still a new medium at the time.
The full decision can be read here. The actual context in which the F-word is used? Doesn’t matter, for this or pretty much any other song:
CAB Equitable Portrayal Code, Clause 10 – Contextual Considerations
Broadcasts may fairly include material that would otherwise appear to breach one of the foregoing provisions in the following contextual circumstances:
- Legitimate artistic usage: Individuals who are themselves bigoted or intolerant may be part of a fictional or non-fictional program, provided that the program is not itself abusive or unduly discriminatory.
…the primary purpose of Clause 10(a) was to protect longer-form programming in which an idea or context that would otherwise be problematic under one of the negative portrayal provisions of the Equitable Portrayal Code was advanced by one or more of the characters or principals of the program. Thus, for example, the broadcast of a film such as To Kill a Mockingbird would likely be acceptable despite the significant expression in the film of abusive views of the townspeople in that racially-charged trial of the young black man, Tom Robinson, who had allegedly raped a white woman…
There are, it goes without saying, limitless similar examples of dramatic and documentary films anticipated by Clause 10(a). The Panel is not, however, of the view that the Clause will generally be of application in the case of a song, in which the exposition of a context is less likely to be present. The Panel certainly does not close the door to that possibility but it does not consider that “Money for Nothing” is such a song. The Panel finds no case for the application of the exception protecting legitimate artistic usage on this occasion.
The CBSC is an industry organization, not a government agency, so this really isn’t about censorship so much as corporate cravenness. Which shouldn’t come as a surprise, really: bowdlerized versions of songs are an established fact of life on most commercial radio stations. (One Nova Scotia country station plays a version of the Zac Brown Band’s “Toes” featuring the lyric, “glass in the sand.”)
The best part about this story is that it makes the Council look ridiculous, and the resulting outcry might – might – affect how it acts in the future. Who knows? Maybe they’ll mollify Canadians by ordering that no more Celine Dion songs can be broadcast, either.
This one hasn’t been deemed offensive to hillbillies, yet: