Dire Straits' song deemed fit for Canadian radio

The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council ruled that while a homosexual slur in the Dire Straits hit Money for Nothing is inappropriate, individual radio stations can decide for themselves whether to play the song.
Mark Knopfler, lead singer of Dire Straits, performs at the Nelson Mandela concert at Wembley in June 1988. (Photo by Dave Hogan/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

A Canadian broadcast watchdog ruled Wednesday that a homosexual slur in Dire Straits’ hit song Money for Nothing may be inappropriate, but suggested that the term should be taken in context of the overall tune.

The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council also suggested that individual radio stations could make their own decisions on whether the song was acceptable for their listening audience and should make their own decisions about which version of the 1985 classic hit it should play.

The CRTC had asked for a review of the council's January ban on the song, which created a public backlash.

The original panel deemed the Grammy-winning rock tune unfit for Canadian radio in its unedited version, after a listener of CHOZ-FM in St. John's complained about the use of the word "faggot" in the song's lyrics.

"In the end, the ad hoc national panel considers that the Atlantic regional panel was correct in its view of the inappropriateness of the word 'faggot' for broadcast on Canadian airwaves," the CBSC panel said in its ruling.

"Whether or not the challenged word was at one time less unacceptable, perhaps as recently as 25 years ago, it no longer is."

The panel also said that despite the use of the term that may be hurtful to some, "there may be circumstances in which even words designating unacceptably negative portrayal may be acceptable because of their contextual usage."

The panel felt in this particular song the term could be used.

However, the panel also left the onus on individual stations in the various regions to make their own decisions on what version the song should be used.

"While, for the reasons given in this decision, the ad hoc national panel concludes that the original version does not breach the private broadcasters’ codified standards, it would encourage broadcasters to make the airplay choice appropriate to their market," the panel said.

In context

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 and reacting with disgust to the fledgling network's flamboyant rock stars.

The council simply hadn't taken such context into account when making its original decision, said the organization's national chair, Ron Cohen. But with that information in hand, the majority of the council's panel felt the word was intended satirically and not in a hateful manner.

"[The context] wasn't as evident without the explanations that have been provided," Cohen told The Canadian Press. "This background information was drawn out of the public and provided to us…Had the Atlantic panel had this information in the first place, it may well have come to a different conclusion."

The original ruling in early January attracted much discussion, including comment from the band, and prompted a handful of radio stations across the country to repeatedly air the unedited version of the song.

With files from The Canadian Press