Consuelo Bernardi: The B Sides


Dire Straits

The Lyric Controversy

“I’m all for trying to restructure our popular vernacular or the lexicon ... so it doesn’t put minorities in harm’s way, but I also think that censoring a song like [Money For Nothing], with a lyric like that, will only serve to fetishize those words in the first place.”  ~Luke Doucet (article from the Globe And Mail)

It may be a classic rock song but the song 'Money for Nothing' by Dire Straits will now have to be edited and no longer played in its original form because of a complaint launched by an individual against a radio station.

The CBSC has banned the playing of the original version of the Dire Straits song because there was deemed anti-homosexual implications in that song. The song will only now be permitted to be played with the edited version:

The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning the broadcast of the unedited version of the song “Money for Nothing” by Dire Straits on CHOZ-FM (OZ FM, Newfoundland). The CBSC concluded that the presence of the word “faggot” in the song contravened the Human Rights Clauses of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) Code of Ethics and Equitable Portrayal Code.

The song “Money for Nothing” by British rock band Dire Straits (from their 1985 album Brothers in Arms) included three instances of the word “faggot”. It is that version of the song that was broadcast on OZ FM on February 1, 2010 (the station’s declared policy is to broadcast classic rock songs in their original form). A listener complained that the word “faggot” is discriminatory to gays. The broadcaster argued that the song had been played countless times since its release in the 1980s, that it has been a very popular song since that time, and that it has won music industry awards. The complainant then pointed out that OZ FM does indeed edit other songs that contain other types of offensive language.

The CBSC if you didn't know, is the self-regulatory body with the responsibility of administering those professional broadcast Codes and the pay television Codes, based on ethics, equitable portrayal, television violence and journalistic independence by which they expect broadcasters to follow.

I have some history in dealing with the CBSC - years ago when I was working for an alternative rock station in town we got our hands slapped for playing "Boyz-In-The-Hood", performed by Dynamite Hack. The offence? Questionable lyrics.  In the end the song was pulled. 

As a broadcaster I understand in essence why the CBSC makes their rulings. Radio airwaves are public and there are rules and regualtions that must be follwed to maintain that licence.  And 99% the ruling by the CBSC make sense...they truly are no brainers. But in this instance, with this song and this word in it's true doesn't make sense. And hence the backlash.

Over the years the CBSC has created a list of banned words that are deemed offensive and that is why record companies issue 'radio edits' for airplay. Rarely do radio stations play an 'album' cut unless they fall under the format of 'rock' or 'classic rock'....I mean really how many years has 'Money For Nothing' been played since becoming a Top 40 it in 1985 without any complaints and now because of one person the fate of the song has changed.

And for the most part radio has complied and made the use of edits status quo.  I have no issues with radio edits (aside from the fact that I think they sound crappy more often than not). During my time as radio station Music Director 90% of the time I received radio edits to play from record companies, it was what it was and it wasn't a big deal.

The uproar seems to be the CBSC is trying to play the part of 'Big Brother' and the word censorship has come up a lot on discussion boards and Twitter.

The issue with the ruling of this song and it's a tough's a slippery slope. It comes down to the debate of word vs intent. If you clearly listen to the song the context of the word 'faggot' in relation to the song was never taken into consideration.  And yes I've been accused of being biased given my radio background.

This song controvery is similar to the war of words being waged south of the border in the US over changing language in Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn that substituted the word “slave” for the racial 'N' slur.

I remember working in radio and the line was always 'if you don't like it don't can switch the station'. Reality is it's not that easy anymore.

One complaint is all it takes.

But the question having regulatory agencies ban words does it mean they will never be used again? Do we just continue to edit? Does one complaint justify a change?

I'd love to hear your thoughts.