Gay rights group applauds decision on Dire Straits song

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Broadcast council rules 'Money for Nothing' unsuitable for Canadian radio

Guitarist Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits, plays during Live Aid concert in July 1985. The 1980s song

TORONTO — A gay rights organization is applauding the decision that deemed Dire Straits’ 1985 hit “Money for Nothing” unacceptable for Canadian radio.

The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council decided on Wednesday that the song violates part of the broadcast industry’s code of ethics because the lyrics include the word “faggot” three times.

Egale Canada executive director Helen Kennedy says it’s the right decision, given the recent high-profile suicides of teenagers who were the subject of homophobic and transphobic bullying.

“I think it’s extremely important to take these words out of lyrics in popular culture,” Kennedy said in a telephone interview Thursday. “It perpetuates the stereotype, it’s negative and it’s offensive. If you look to the origin of the word, it’s disgusting.

“And you know, I really do think that it should not be part of anybody’s lyrics or playbook.”

The scrutiny of the Dire Straits song was prompted by a listener of radio station CHOZ-FM in St. John’s, N.L., who complained last year about the lyric.

The panel noted that “Money for Nothing” would be acceptable for broadcast if suitably edited.

The decision comes as controversy is still swirling over a Montgomery, Ala., publisher that has issued a censored version of Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” that replaces the word “nigger” with “slave.”

Kennedy said that listeners should simply enjoy the edited version of “Money for Nothing.”

“It’s not as if the song is being taken off the air, there is an edited version out there because people realized that it was offensive,” she said.

“So I definitely think that it sends a positive message: ’This word is not acceptable. Don’t use it.”’

Brad Muir, director of operations for classic rock stations C103 in Moncton and FRED FM in Fredericton, says he wasn’t “all that surprised” by the ruling.

His stations actually decided to edit “Money for Nothing” about two years ago.

“I had one phone call about the song a couple years ago,” he said in a telephone interview. “The person wasn’t necessarily overly angry, it wasn’t like a massive complaint, I didn’t get into a big fight with them at all, they just said they found it kind of offensive. They didn’t ask us to stop playing the song. They just said: ’Is there anything you can do?’

“Because whether the intent of the word is meant to be offensive or not, it doesn’t really matter. It’s how kids hear it nowadays. So it wasn’t that big of a deal for me. I just went and edited it and I’ve never heard anybody complain about it being edited either.”

The controversy over “Money for Nothing” actually isn’t new.

Even back in ’85 when the song hit No. 1 on the charts in Canada and the U.S., songwriter Mark Knopfler responded to accusations of homophobia by pointing out that the lyric was meant to be ironic and written from the viewpoint of a “stupid” character, as the singer explained to Rolling Stone.

The song, co-written by Sting, was a massive hit when it was released, winning a Grammy and spawning a massively popular music video that featured crude computer animation and became interwoven with the popularity of the then-fledgling music network MTV.

Muir said it’s still an essential for radio playlists.

“That song is a staple in classic rock formats, absolutely,” he said. “That’s one of the top testing songs, that’s one of the primary songs that all classic-rock stations play, all the time. And there aren’t many like that.

“There’s probably only 10 or 20. That’s up there with ’Sweet Home Alabama’ and ’You Shook Me All Night Long’ and ’Stairway to Heaven’ and all of those classic-rock staple songs that every station plays.”

Organizations: Canadian Broadcast Standards Council, CHOZ-FM

Geographic location: Canada, TORONTO, Montgomery, Ala. Moncton Fredericton U.S. Sweet Home

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Recent comments

  • NFforNF
    January 20, 2011 - 16:57

    This is all so silly really. "Faggott" is a cigarette from the old days. The homosexual crowd keep hogging all the good words and then eventual everything gets banned. Sooner rather than later to keep track of all the politically incorrect words that change meaning over time we will all be reduced to a series of gutteral clucking to communicate. I am so bloody ashamed that it was somebody here that started all this foolishness. Who are the reaL bigots here?

  • David
    January 18, 2011 - 10:44

    I can't believe people are still listening to local radio, playing 30 year old songs. Geez, the song was bad back then, it should be banned just for being bad. It's not a classic rock song, the '80's are dead, bury it and move on.

  • guy
    January 17, 2011 - 23:13

    i am gay and have never been even slightly offended by the Dire Straits song...what i am offended with is the growing number of people who wish to demand what others should think and or consider as offensive... if you don't like the song playing on the radio, wait for about three to five minutes and a whole new song will play...maybe it will be "Oh My God" (God forbid an atheist is listening) or to really piss off the bald people of the world "I Toss My Hair Back and Forth"...when will all of this political correctness end? It's kind of like shooting someone before they can shoot you. Can't we all just get along and "Give Peace a Chance"?

  • Taxpayertoo
    January 17, 2011 - 15:27

    We should be promoting more tolerance and less bigotry, if we continue in this vein everything and anything could be changed because someone was offended. To all of you so easily offended I say "get a life" obviously you have nothing better to do so how about using the time wasted on complaining and try to do some good. Help under privilaged children, victims of abuse, bullying, anything but stop compaining about things that offend you. Making changes such as this to pacify a few is taking the song out of context and destroying the origional point. Folks you cannot change history simply because it offends you, there are way more serious things goin on that apparently should offend but are not, go figure!!

  • Money for nothing opinion for free
    January 16, 2011 - 19:17

    The biggest problem I have when I read stories like this is that people don't actually think before they censor. This song is actually pro gay. However, that part is being ignored. It is the context in which the word is used that should be examined first. Thank god Americans don't do that; if they ever figure out Born in the USA is actually condemminng the Vietnam war somebody might shoot Springsteen. This is just as bad as the Huck Finn/N word scenario. The biggest problem with all this is that African Americans are most likely to use the N word themselves... as are homosexuals to use faggot in a social setting. If a word really harms the growth of a minority group in society then it is that groups responsiblity not to use it as well. To play devils advocate here for a second I am a straight white male (society's newest minority). So for those of you who want to trash whitey go ahead but if one were so inclined to want to create some sort of sraight white male society to lobby for the banning of song's that degrade me... the very existence of such a group would offend most and somebody would be shot. Todays society has a responsibility to teach their children how to grow up in a media enriched culture and be able to pick out the BS. That job falls firmly on the parents. To the one man here in NL that Dire Staits offended I don't think they wrote the song with that in mind. I hope your complaints spillover into the song being downloaded alot and the band being exposed to a new generation that weren't around when this was released on Vinyl. Wether it's a book, song, movie or any other form of expression you can think of from our past censoring it will only ruin classics not change the past. Furthermore, free speech should be allowed to everybody in the world including Dire Straits and Mark Twain. Taking faggot and nigger out these pieces of art doesn't undue the mistakes out our cultures past. Censoring our culture will breed a new generation of idiots who will only repeat our mistakes. Just remember you don't have the right to express your opinion in a free society unless you allow for the guy yelling the exact oppisite of you to be on their soapbox too.

  • ohmenerves
    January 15, 2011 - 19:54

    I am as queer as Christmas and I do not take umbrage to that song at all. Someone must have been in the closet since 1985 and just discovered this song. The song is a parody of musicians in general,the word "faggot" was used ironically.

  • Paul
    January 15, 2011 - 07:25

    I guess the group Queen won't be getting much airplay. It's funny how we are becoming so sensitive and politically correct that we're censoring ourselves to the point of killing free speech. Orwell would be proud of us!

  • Kelly in St. John's
    January 14, 2011 - 20:09

    "Did the people who banned this classic actually listen to the lyrics and understand them. The lead singer, Knopfler, is playing an intolerant character in the song who mocks musicians, such as himself - perhaps those who may look different. "Money for Nothing" is pro-gay. Know the context of it first before flying off the handle. This is absolutely stupid! It's like banning Mark Twain's Huck Finn from schools. I really have concerns about censorship of this sort. I hope the airwaves play this song over and over. It kind of backfired on the censors and the silly complainant - now kids who probably didn't even know the song before are downloading it."

  • Tot
    January 14, 2011 - 18:58

    I know all the big girls can have "Fat Bottom Girls" banned, the blind and deaf can have "Pinball Wizard" banned. The tax man can have "Tax Man" Banned. Ban "The Hurricane" cause it implies the police don't investigate murders. The guys with their own jet planes can ban "Money for nothing"...Oooops, too late for that one!

  • Seamus
    January 14, 2011 - 17:38

    I am shocked and amazed that the gay community would be supporting censorship in any form. Shame on you.

  • Music Fan
    January 14, 2011 - 13:01

    We can't listen to song with words that seem to be supporting racism but we submit out children to songs talking about sex, table dancing etc. I rather have them listen to a song with the word faggot (nothing against gay ppl intended) than a song talking about " liking her pants around her knees" or saying that "I'm not in love,but the sex is good". If I had time to actually pick a song apart there would be many songs unsuitable for radio. I really don't think the Dire Straits song was meant to be bashing gay ppl.

  • Joe Blow
    January 14, 2011 - 12:34

    Unbelievable.............. I would like to know how the Homosexuals of the world got the right to take over the word GAY. It was a beautiful word describing a beautiful feeling or state of mind. It was certainly not intended to describe Homosexuality or attraction to the same sex. Personally I think "Queer" describes it much better. Whats next on the list........ The christmas song,, Don we now our GAY apparel etc etc. I have nothing against Homosexuals but this has gone too far. Its absurb. The world is gone crazy.

  • Mike
    January 14, 2011 - 12:25

    This is so silly. What is the world turning into? It is now an environment where you can not say or do pretty much anything without offending someone. Everyone is too sensitive! And just as an extra note, you don't have to be gay to be a faggot, that was the old definition. A faggot is just someone who is acting like a faggot.

  • Esron
    January 14, 2011 - 11:58

    I'm a big freakin' 'mo and I don't care about the lyrics, they're cultural and from the past and allow us to show us where we were, and are now. It's like having a "n"-less Huck-Finn [And see see how that's working out] or a Jewless, Germanless, Naziless Diaries of Anne Frank. It's history. Now I'm not saying for new artists to go out and say "I wanta go be shootin' da batty boy baybee" [Oh wait... they already do... Pointing fingers at you Buju Banton, Bounty Killer and Bobo Shanti Rastafarians Sizzla and Capleton] because another song was allowed, but just try and stay away from it... like the "n" word [Oh wait... that's not working either]... You know what, I've lost the point of this message... I'll simplify it... The decision was stupid. ya know, hoping most people have moved past that.

  • Brad
    January 14, 2011 - 11:33

    The only people with no rights these days are normal, straight, white people. The minorities have more flex when it comes to influencing government or society in general. Nobody is jamming headphones in your ears and forcing you to listen to the music, just turn it off if you don't like it. I don't like rap music as I feel it isn't music, but I realize that is my opinion and therefor I don't need to listen to it, and I don't. The gay community do themselves more harm than good the more they open their mouth. I don't care what people do behind closed doors that's their business, but when it starts to affect the majority of the population, then I have a problem.

  • Chris
    January 14, 2011 - 11:33

    I got one.....How about banning the gay pride parades until they clean up their act and make it suitable for kids to attend. i'd much rather let my daughter listen to Dire Straits then be in Toronto during gay pride week.

  • kelly
    January 14, 2011 - 11:20

    I don't understand. We are not Americans so why are we trying to erase the bits of our history and culture that people don't like now? That song was written in the 80's; it was an entirely different time. Plus, it was during the time that Elton John was outed. Remember the media hype around that? MY question is why are we sensoring music? And, why can you still write the word in question over and over? How come THAT is not offensive?

  • big girl
    January 14, 2011 - 10:46

    I have an idea.all the big girls can get fat bottom girls banned! Or how about the deaf and blind getting pinball wizard banned ?Or the tax men can have tax men banned? or maybe all the people with airplanes can have money for nothing banned ... oh ya its already been banned..

  • Max Row
    January 14, 2011 - 09:20

    These people are the epitome of hypocrisy - free speech and freedom of expression, but only when it suits them. What a patronizing attitude. I will decide what I listen to. Also ironic is that by formalizing her slight to the public she has guaranteed that people everywhere will want to hear this song. Now, what to do, contact the CRTC and register my displeasure or drive to Corner Brook, open the windows on my car, turn up my "Brothers in Arms" CD to 'pressure cook' and let 'er go. Gotta love free choice!

  • SM
    January 14, 2011 - 08:56

    I don't really think it's entirely inappropriate to ask that it be edited. Given the overabundance of use of the word by the population of homophobes, it's fair game whether it's musically focused or not. Call it a pet peeve, but even being straight it makes my hackles rise to see some teenage genius yelling it at the top of his lungs as the best insult in his repitoire. Time to walk into the new world folks, where hate based language isn't appropriate.

  • Neil
    January 14, 2011 - 08:31

    If you had to listen to all the songs from the 60's to the 90's you'd have to sensor alot of songs. Just listen to Pinball Wizard....and like it was said before--some people are too sensitive and got nothing better to complain about. You don't like a song, turn to another channel when it comes on. I do it all the time.

  • Bleeding Heart
    January 14, 2011 - 08:12

    Sure, but taken in context of the song there is no Bashing of the Gehys. Is this really what the movement has come too?

  • james
    January 14, 2011 - 08:11

    some one has to much time on their hands maybe they should get a job

  • Straits Fan
    January 14, 2011 - 07:36

    Some people are just too sensitive.