Canadian broadcasters can go back to playing Dire Straits' 1985 hit, "Money For Nothing," the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) announced yesterday. The song was pulled from national playlists in January after a single listener complained about the use of the word "faggot" on Newfoundland radio station CHOZ-FM.
"Money For Nothing" was immediately deemed a breach of the Human Rights Clauses of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters' (CAB) Code of Ethics and Equitable Portrayal Code. The decision caused public outrage in support of the classic song.
"It made us look silly in the eyes of the broadcast community around the world," writer/broadcaster Alan Cross, a 30-year veteran of the Canadian radio biz, tells Rolling Stone. "I talked to people from the U.S. and the U.K. and they were like, 'What's wrong with you people? Don't you get it? It's a joke. It's a satire. You didn't understand the context?'"
The new decision was based on what CBSC calls "considerable additional information" – such as learning that alternative versions of "Money For Nothing" have existed since 1985, proving "the band and the composer considered that there was a less offensive way of presenting the song to the public long ago" and the context in which the word is used demonstrates that "the composer's language appears not to have had an iota of malevolent or insulting intention."
The CBSC added that the time/age issue alone "will not save a challenged song" and that the Atlantic Regional Panel was "correct in its view of the inappropriateness of the word" for broadcast on Canadian airwaves.
Stations now have the option to play the original version or any one the alternative versions.
Cross wasn't surprised at the original decision or the amendment. "They have to be very careful that they're meeting the needs of all Canadians," he says. "When it comes to things like foul language and discriminatory language, it's really tough for the CBSC to rule in any direction but for the plaintiff.
"Every single incident is taken as an isolated case. So what happens when somebody complains about the Tragically Hip's 'At The Hundredth Meridian' with the F-bomb in it? What if somebody complains about the Who from 1978, 'Who Are You' with 'Who the fuck are you' in it? Under the rules, the CBSC would have to rule those songs unplayable on Canadian airwaves because of language."
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