Oddly Enough

Radio stations told to censor Dire Straits

VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Canadian radio station have been warned to censor the 1985 Dire Straits hit “Money for Nothing,” after a complaint that the lyrics of the Grammy Award-winning song were derogatory to gay men.

Former "Dire Straits" lead singer Mark Knopfler performs during a concert in Bombay March 5, 2005. REUTERS/Punit Paranjpe

A St. John’s, Newfoundland, station should have edited the song to remove the word “faggot” because it violates Canada’s human rights standards, according to ruling this week by the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council.

A unnamed listener to OZ FM in the Atlantic Coast province complained to the industry watchdog last year after hearing the song, which features Dire Straits frontman Mark Knopfler and fellow rock star Sting.

The council said it realized Dire Straits uses the word sarcastically, and its use might have been acceptable in 1985 when the best-selling “Brothers in Arms” album was released, but said it was now inappropriate.

“The decision doesn’t really relate to the Dire Straits song at the end of the day, the decision relates to the word in question,” Ron Cohen, the council’s chairman, told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.

OZ FM argued unsuccessfully that the song has been played countless times since it was released more than 25 years ago, has won various industry awards, including a Grammy in 1986, and remains popular with listeners around the world.

The ruling comes in the wake of an uproar sparked by a U.S. scholar who decided to publish an edition of Mark Twain’s novel “Huckleberry Finn” that would remove the word “nigger” to make it less offensive to some readers.

Although the Dire Straits ruling only sanctions the St John’s station, it means other Canadian radio stations could get in trouble it they air the song without censoring it.

The Broadcast Standards Council is a non-governmental industry group that administers ethical standards established by its members, Canada’s private broadcasters

Dire Straits dissolved as a band in the 1990s after a string of hit albums.

Reporting Allan Dowd; editing by Rob Wilson