Some Important Clarifications about the CBSC’s Dire Straits Decision

It won’t be a surprise to persons looking at the CBSC website to know that there has been considerable reaction in the media to the decision of the Atlantic Regional Panel regarding the broadcast of the unedited version of the song “Money for Nothing”. Nor will it be surprising that many Canadians have contacted the CBSC objecting to the Atlantic Panel’s decision.

While it’s obvious that anyone may disagree with any CBSC decision at any time, many of those e-mails and news reports reflect misunderstandings, inadequate information or errors regarding the CBSC decision and the process. Here are some explanations of these in the form of FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions):

What’s the CBSC anyway?

The CBSC is a voluntary organization made up of (as of this moment) about 760 Canadian private radio and television broadcasters. They’re all free to stay or go, but they are all committed to the codes of ethics they created in the public interest. And the CBSC administers those codes.

Why did the CBSC ban the song?

The Atlantic Regional Panel did not ban the song. The CBSC has no authority to ban any song. Nor would it have any interest in doing that. The Panel only concluded that the word “faggot” is inappropriate for radio broadcast, and that principle applies to spoken word or musical broadcasts.

It should not be forgotten that there is no problem for broadcasters to play any edited version of the song or to mute the offending word. Moreover, Dire Straits themselves have frequently dropped or altered the problematic version of the song (see the FAQs below that deal with “other versions” and “live performances”).

What are the CBSC’s responsibilities?

Canada’s private broadcasters created a self-regulatory body, the CBSC, in 1990 to respond to complaints from the public about things they hear on the radio or watch on television. The CBSC does this by administering the codes that the broadcasters voluntarily apply to all their programming, whether talk radio, news, public affairs, music or anything else.

The CBSC has no responsibility for CDs, iTunes, the internet or content delivered on any platform other than those providing broadcast content.

Is the CBSC a government agency?

No.

Do I pay for the CBSC out of my taxes?

No. The CBSC is 100% funded by Canada’s private broadcasters.

Is there more than one version of “Money for Nothing”?

Yes. There is the original version from the album, Brothers in Arms and there is a radio-edited version. The offending word is not present in the radio version, and that is the version that has likely been used most, if not nearly all, of the time on radio broadcasts.

We should add that, like the radio version, numerous other recorded and live versions of the song do not include the word “faggot”. And all of these “edited” versions have been created by Dire Straits themselves.

It should also be noted that it was the edited version of the song that is on the classic 1990 Live at Knebworth album and on the band’s 1999 compilation album Sultans of Swing: The Very Best of Dire Straits.

What about the live performances of “Money for Nothing”?

Interestingly, Dire Straits (which Mark Knopfler dissolved in 1995) itself rarely used the offending word in its live performances, even from as early as 1985. This can easily be verified on YouTube, where none of the following nine live Dire Straits concerts include the word “faggot” in the band’s performances of “Money for Nothing”:

The words substituted by Dire Straits for “faggot” in the above concerts include: queenie, mother, trucker, mothertrucker, maggot, queen, mama.

The only two live concerts (on YouTube) at which Dire Straits themselves used the word “faggot” were the one recorded on their DVD On the Night (1993) and the Rotterdam concert of 1992.

How come this decision is only applying now to a song from 1985?

CBSC Panels never make their decisions on the basis of polls. Panel decisions are always based on whether a given broadcast is or is not in breach of a code. Whether the complaint is filed by a single complainant (as has happened in the vast majority of the 489 CBSC Panel decisions, all of which are on our website) or by 14,000+ complainants (as in the case of TQS re Dieu Reçoit), the Panel decision is based solely on the codified standard.

Who makes such Panel decisions?

The Atlantic Regional Panel decision, like all other CBSC Panel adjudications, is made by a Panel of Adjudicators, generally six in number, of whom half represent the public and half represent the broadcast industry.

Press Release: Use of Derogatory Word for Gays in a Song Breaches Broadcast Codes.