Saturday, September 3, 2011

Too much regulation?

Last January, Canada's broadcast standards council caused a bit of an uproar up north when it ruled that, after 25+ years of airplay, Dire Straits' hit song "Money for Nothing" was unfit for radio.  Responding to a complaint by a single listener who felt that a single word in the song might be considered offensive, the council went further, proclaiming the word a "hateful and painful term" and ruling that the song "contravened the human rights clauses of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters' Code of Ethics and Equitable Portrayal Code."
As anyone (but the council apparently) might expect, the decision resulted in a public backlash, with a number of radio stations repeatedly playing the original (unedited) version.  Along the way, many other listeners and music critics reminded the council that the term was used satirically in the song, in a context where its use was portrayed negatively.
The song's writer, Mark Knopfler, has long maintained that he was writing from the perspective of a "bonehead" whom he observed in a hardware store watching MTV, reacting with disgust to the fledgling network's flamboyant rock stars.
Last week, the council tried to restore its credibility by amending the ruling, saying that a majority of the council hadn't originally considered the context of the use of the term in its first ruling. In announcing the amended ruling, the council stated:
"The (council) wishes to make perfectly clear to those persons who have commended the CBSC for its 'brave' position regarding the disapproval of the hateful and painful term that it is not abandoning that position... It is only saying that there may be circumstances in which even words designating unacceptably negative portrayal may be acceptable because of their contextual usage."
After claiming that it was both wrong and right in the original ruling, the council further punted, saying it would leave it to individual stations to decide whether to air the original or edited version of the song.  So much for credibility (or rationality).  And you have to wonder what word will be the next to be considered "unfit for radio."

Source - Council amends ruling on Dire Straits' song,  Broadcast Newsroom

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