Canada’s broadcast standards council has amended an earlier ruling that deemed Dire Straits’ 1985 hit 'Money For Nothing' unfit for radio, saying that while the homophobic slur used in the song was inappropriate, it must be taken in context.
The Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission had asked for a review of the song after the standards council ruled in January that the British band’s song was unfit for radio because its lyrics included three instances of the anti-gay slur “faggot”. The council had responded to a complaint from a radio listener.
The January ruling created a public backlash, especially since the song first was released on the band’s bestselling 'Brothers in Arms' album and had been widely sold and listened to in Canada in the two-and-a-half decades since its release.
The council released its review decision yesterday, saying the majority of the council’s panel felt the song used the word satirically and not in a hateful manner.
“The (council) wishes to make perfectly clear to those persons who have commended the CBSC for its ’brave’ position regarding the disapproval of the hateful and painful term that it is not abandoning that position,” states the decision.
“It is only saying that there may be circumstances in which even words designating unacceptably negative portrayal may be acceptable because of their contextual usage.”
On January 12 the council responded to a listener in St John’s, Newfoundland, who was offended by the song’s lyrics. Its regional Atlantic panel ruled that the song contravened the human rights clauses of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ Code of Ethics and Equitable Portrayal Code.
The song’s writer, Mark Knopfler, has long maintained that he was writing from the perspective of a “bonehead” whom he observed in a hardware store watching MTV, reacting with disgust to the fledgling network’s flamboyant rock stars.
The council had not taken such context into account when making its original decision, the organisation’s national chairman Ron Cohen said today.
“This background information was drawn out of the public and provided to us and (we said): ’Ah-a! Had the Atlantic panel had this information in the first place, it may well have come to a different conclusion.”’
The tune was a hit in 1985, winning a Grammy, reaching No 1 on the charts in the US and Canada and spawning a famous music video that featured crude computer animation and became a signature of the then-nascent MTV.
The council is recommending that individual stations consider the sensitivities of their listeners in deciding whether to play the original song or an edited version.