Dire Straits’ “Money For Nothing” caused a whole lot of “Ruckus For Nothing” in Canada, as it turns out.
In January, the Straits track was deemed inappropriate, based on the inclusion of the word “f-ggot”, following a single listener complaint made to the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC), the self-regulatory body setup by Canada’s private broadcasters.
At the time, many media outlets incorrectly reported the song was banned, but that’s not what the CBSC’s ruling intended or, in fact, suggested: the Council instructed Canadian broadcasters to censor the song so that the inappropriate language was kept off the nation’s airwaves.
The song’s second verse contains the “offensive” word three times, as follows:
"The little f-ggot with the earring and the makeup Yeah, buddy, that's his own hair That little f-ggot got his own jet airplane That little f-ggot, he's a millionaire"
Citing artistic merit and context, many fans cried “foul” that the song should be censored, which shook the halls of government in Ottawa. Based on public reaction, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) requested the CBSC review its decision that the unedited version of the song was inappropriate for Canadian radio.
The CBSC reviewed the Dire Straits decision and, on Wednesday, released a statement overturning most of their initial ruling, which means the original, unedited version of “Money For Nothing” can safely return to Canada’s airwaves.
The CBSC cited the availability of additional information about the background of the song’s creation by composer Mark Knopfler to be of value in their review, claiming no such info was initially provided. The fact that Knopfler’s lyrics directly quoted someone’s comments while watching MTV – with no ill intent on the creator’s part – played a contributing role.
Another factor in the decision is that alternate, edited versions of the song have been available since 1985, so broadcasters have always had a choice of which version they deemed appropriate for their local audience.
The Council has confirmed their initial ruling that, while the term “f-ggot” remains inappropriate for broadcast on the Canadian airwaves, “there may be circumstances in which even words designating unacceptably negative portrayal may be acceptable because of their contextual usage.” An exception provided in Clause 10(b) (Comedic, humorous or satirical usage) is applicable here, said the Council.