Use of Derogatory Word for Gays in a Song Breaches Broadcast Codes, Says Canadian Broadcast Standards Council
Ottawa, January 12, 2011 - The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning the broadcast of the unedited version of the song “Money for Nothing” by Dire Straits on CHOZ-FM (OZ FM, Newfoundland). The CBSC concluded that the presence of the word “faggot” in the song contravened the Human Rights Clauses of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) Code of Ethics and Equitable Portrayal Code.
The song “Money for Nothing” by British rock band Dire Straits (from their 1985 album Brothers in Arms) included three instances of the word “faggot”. It is that version of the song that was broadcast on OZ FM on February 1, 2010 (the station’s declared policy is to broadcast classic rock songs in their original form). A listener complained that the word “faggot” is discriminatory to gays. The broadcaster argued that the song had been played countless times since its release in the 1980s, that it has been a very popular song since that time, and that it has won music industry awards. The complainant then pointed out that OZ FM does indeed edit other songs that contain other types of offensive language.
The CBSC’s Atlantic Regional Panel examined the complaint under the Human Rights Clauses of the CAB Code of Ethics and Equitable Portrayal Code, both of which prohibit the broadcast of abusive or unduly discriminatory content on the basis of sexual orientation, as well as clauses in the Equitable Portrayal Code relating to degrading material and inappropriate terminology. The Panel concluded that the broadcast of the unedited version of the song violated those Code provisions because the word “faggot”, even if once acceptable, has evolved to become unacceptable in most circumstances. The Panel put its reasoning in the following terms:
[...] [L]ike other racially driven words in the English language, “faggot” is one that, even if entirely or marginally acceptable in earlier days, is no longer so. The Panel finds that it has fallen into the category of unacceptable designations on the basis of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, marital status or physical or mental disability. In addition to the terms already so categorized by previous CBSC Panels, there are undoubtedly other racial epithets (not yet the subject of CBSC Panel decisions) that would likely fall into the category of words that are inherently problematic. In any event, the Atlantic Regional Panel concludes that the use of the word “faggot” in the song “Money for Nothing” was unacceptable for broadcast and that, by broadcasting an unedited version of the song, CHOZ-FM breached Clause 2 of the CAB Code of Ethics, and Clauses 2, 7 and 9 of the Equitable Portrayal Code. The Panel notes parenthetically that the song would not otherwise fall afoul of any of the foregoing broadcast standards if suitably edited.
Canada’s private broadcasters have themselves created industry standards in the form of Codes on ethics, equitable portrayal, television violence and journalistic independence by which they expect the members of their profession will abide. In 1990, they also created the CBSC, which is the self-regulatory body with the responsibility of administering those professional broadcast Codes and the pay television Codes, as well as the Code dealing with journalistic ethics created by the RTNDA – Association of Electronic Journalists in 1970. Nearly 760 radio stations, satellite radio services, television stations and specialty services from across Canada are members of the Council.
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All CBSC decisions, Codes, links to members' and other web sites, and related information are available on the CBSC's website at www.cbsc.ca. For more information, please contact the CBSC National Chair, Mme Andrée Noël CBSC Executive Director, John MacNab