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Canada Bans 1985 Dire Straits Song 'Money for Nothing' from Airplay Over 'Faggot' Lyric


The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council yesterday banned Dire Straits' 1985 track "Money for Nothing" from Canadian airplay over its use of the word "faggot". Those of you old enough to be familiar with the track's release in the mid-80's may remember that the song was sometimes edited for radio for the same reasons.

Apparently, Canada's just getting around to it:

A listener to radio station CHOZ-FM in St. John's complained last year that the song includes the word “faggot” in its lyrics and is discriminatory to gays.

The broadcaster argued that the song had been played countless times since its release decades ago and has won music industry awards.

A CBSC panel concluded that the word “faggot,” even if once acceptable, has evolved to become unacceptable in most circumstances.

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

Here's the CBSC's ruling.

In November '85, Dire Straits Mark Knopfler discussed the lyric controversy

"I got an objection from the editor of a gay newspaper in London - he actually said it was 'below the belt.' Apart from the fact that there are stupid gay people as well as stupid other people, it suggests that maybe you can't let it have so many meanings - you have to be direct. In fact, I'm still in two minds as to whether it's a good idea to write songs that aren't in the first person, to take on other characters. The singer in 'Money for Nothing' is a real ignoramus, hard hat mentality - somebody who sees everything in financial terms. I mean, this guy has a grudging respect for rock stars. He sees it in terms of, well, that's not working and yet the guys rich: that's a good scam. He isn't sneering."

Watch the 'Money for Nothing' video, AFTER THE JUMP...

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  1. I'm no fan of the word "faggot" but this is censorship and I'm against it with every atom of my being. Unfortunately, in Canada, we don't have a First Amendment.

    Posted by: Dan | Jan 13, 2011 8:15:26 AM

  2. For those of you who just want to read the specific lyric mentioned instead of watching the video:

    See the little faggot with the earring
    and the makeup,
    Yeah buddy that's his own hair.
    That little faggot got his own jet airplane,
    That little faggot he's a millionaire.


    I didn't remember those lines until I re-read them, but I agree with the characterization. This is coming from a guy that's jealous of rock stars so his way of putting them down is to use the slur. It's not the intent of the singer, but is the intent of the character he's singing about.

    Posted by: johnny | Jan 13, 2011 8:30:02 AM

  3. O Canada.

    If you look at the lyrics and the context of the F word's use, it's not gratuitously offensive except to the very sensitive among us.

    Posted by: ratbastard | Jan 13, 2011 8:34:12 AM

  4. Boooo!

    Posted by: mboaz | Jan 13, 2011 8:40:05 AM

  5. The song has been playing for 25 years so I don't see why they need to edit it now. It's not like the song is a current chart topper and will be played constantly. I remember when the song and video came out and it was very clear that the guy saying those words was a character, and one being mocked. It worries me when we start editing history, like replacing the N word in Tom Sawyer to read "slave". You might as well go back and edit out all the racist, sexist and homophobic comments from every John Hughes movie (and there are lots), but it won't change the fact that they were there in the first place.

    Posted by: james | Jan 13, 2011 8:42:28 AM

  6. I've heard the song a thousand times and never noticed the slur before. Maybe I've only heard the other version.

    I'm very disappointed to hear that Sting co-wrote and song with such a horrible slur, even if it was in 1985. He's always portrayed himself as a higher thinker and a human rights activist. Like so many others, he must not have felt that the queers counted as human.

    I support Canada's decision. Canada is not America. They work within their own laws and and their own values. I think any AMERICAN looking down his nose and acting as if our laws and values are better than those of Canada is ignorant and arrogant. Of course, ignorance and arrogance seem to be values that Americans are most proud of.

    Posted by: TampaZeke | Jan 13, 2011 8:56:31 AM

  7. If it were the N word, it would have been universally censored immediately upon release, no questions asked. But the F word? Seems to be OK, and that's the way of the world right now.

    Posted by: Jack M | Jan 13, 2011 8:57:47 AM

  8. James; well put. So much more professionally articulate than my contribution...

    Posted by: Kile Ozier | Jan 13, 2011 9:04:25 AM

  9. Intent is everything and Mark Knopfler is no bigot. I mean for fucks sake he wrote "Les Boys" Which I'll quote in full:

    les boys do cabaret
    les boys are glad to be gay
    they're not afraid now
    disco bar in germany
    les boys are glad to be
    upon parade now

    les boys got leather straps
    les boys got ss caps
    but they got no gun now
    get dressed up get a little risque
    got to do a little s & m these days
    it's all in fun now

    les boys come on again
    for the high class whores
    and the businessmen
    who drive in their mercedes benz
    to a disco bar in old munchen

    they get the jokes that the d.j. makes
    they get nervous and they make mistakes
    they're bad for business
    some tourists take a photograph
    les boys don't get one laugh
    he says they're useless

    late at night when they've gone away
    les boys dream of jean genet
    high heel shoes and a black berret
    and the posters on the wall that say
    les boys do cabaret
    les boys are glad to be gay

    Posted by: brian | Jan 13, 2011 9:08:36 AM

  10. Back in college that very song figured prominently in my awakening sense of pride in being gay. I loved that entire album all through high school, including that song. When I got to college and came out, I began to get really angry about how gay people were treated (circa 1989) to the point where one evening in my dorm room after a particularly difficult day, I put that cassette (!) into my tape deck and began listening only to really *hear* the lyrics for the first time. I ripped the tape out of the deck and through it out of the window, never to be seen again.

    Of course, now I realize that the song isn't meant to be degrading to gay guys, though I am willing to entertain the debate about whether or not the word "faggot" should be removed from our public discourse. I am now a high school teacher and I hear that word every effin day. In fact just two days ago, one of my kids called the other a faggot in the middle of class. The boy who was on the receiving end of the insult looked at the guy who used the word and said, "You probably shouldn't have said that so loud." I took the kid who used the offending word out into the hallway and I asked him if he knew I was gay. He replied, "Yes" and then proceeded to apologize profusely. I like the kid, and I wasn't angry - just more weary and sad. I explained to him that the word is highly insulting and that other kids, including the one he used the word on, may themselves be gay or lesbian. Will he stop using the word? Probably not. But now he knows that not everyone thinks it is ok to say "faggot" in a public setting.

    By the way, I still like that album and even that track. Though now I listen to it via iTunes (it turns out my husband had a copy too, so I didn't have to buy it again!) and I don't play that track in the house when my 7 year old son is around to hear the "f" word.

    Posted by: Steve Ribisi | Jan 13, 2011 9:09:10 AM

  11. @Dan,

    Canada may not have a First Admendment protection of speech/expression, but it does have a Section 2(b) protection in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Neither the US First Admendment nor the Canadian Section 2(b) protections are absolute. And the FCC also regulates broadcasts on radio in the United States for profanity, indecency, and obscenity.

    @James - removing the N-word is not editing history. The word had different connotaitons for readers in Twain's day than in our time. Many words change meaning over time, and if we want young or inexperienced readers to appreciate the classics as they were intended by their authors we may need to do some modern editing.

    Posted by: travshad | Jan 13, 2011 9:18:23 AM

  12. I remember this coming up years ago, when I worked in retail. The particular corporation I worked preferred bland, slightly out of date music playing - nothing risque. And then someone brought it to their attention that their station of choice was playing this song on high rotation, uncensored, so they switched over to slightly more contemporary music.

    Also, while I don't agree with banning the song from airplay, it's more of a general distaste for most forms of censorship - I can't accuse them of being inconsistent in trying to sanitize radio.

    Posted by: Zach | Jan 13, 2011 9:25:01 AM

  13. 26 years later? oh jeez eh thanks. also this is one of the least offensive songs - in fact it's empowering. also there's this thing called freedom of expression. i have a hard time with the censorship of ANYTHING. no matter how hateful it is. even though this is far from hateful.

    Posted by: jgm22 | Jan 13, 2011 9:36:46 AM

  14. @Travshad. Removing the N word is editing history. You are changing an important part of that work to avoid asking the question "why it was there in the first place." If you are going to teach Tom Sawyer then you should be prepared to explain the context and time that it was written. Simply editing out the bad parts does everyone a disservice and is a slippery slope that I fear going down. Would you re-write The Merchant of Venice so Shylock wasn't jewish? Should Birth of a Nation be destroyed because it shows the Klan in a positive light? All of these things are part of our (shameful) history that can't, and shouldn't, be swept under the rug to make us feel better.

    Posted by: james | Jan 13, 2011 9:42:51 AM

  15. I've always understood the song, and the use of "faggot," the way Knopfler describes it, and it has never bothered me. I have to say some folks in this thread seem to have difficulty placing words in context.

    Posted by: Glenn | Jan 13, 2011 10:01:13 AM

  16. By the way, anyone who thinks the "n" word is universally censored immediately upon release obviously hasn't been listening to much popular music lately.

    Posted by: Glenn | Jan 13, 2011 10:02:58 AM

  17. This reminds of me of all the parents freaking out when Pat Benatar released "Hell is for Children," and they all thought she was some kind of Satanic freak. I know my sister and I had to play the song for my mother for her to understand the title was something being said by an abusive parent to their child.

    I personally have no problem with the use of the word "faggot" in this song - in fact I kind of like it. The word is clearly used to add to the general dislike of the appliance delivery guy depicted in the lyrics and the video (IIRC, the song was based on a real event in Mark Knopfler's life). The song says "only losers use that word."

    Posted by: CPT_Doom | Jan 13, 2011 10:08:55 AM

  18. Censorship - against it.

    Posted by: justiceontherocks | Jan 13, 2011 10:13:29 AM

  19. He's making fun of rednecks - people who would use faggot that way. Doesn't bother me - would bother me if I was a redneck, instead of a f...riend of Dorothy.

    How about this from Joe Jackson:

    "Your don't want to sound dumb, don't want to offend
    So don't call me a faggot
    Not unless you are a friend
    Then if you're tall and handsome and strong
    You can wear the uniform and I could play along"

    If it's just getting bleeped, who cares I guess - just highlights the offending word, which probably is about as effective as double underlining and bolding it.

    Posted by: MammaBear | Jan 13, 2011 10:20:42 AM

  20. Um, the song came out 25 years ago. Talk about closing the barn door after the horse has left...

    Posted by: Dave from Chicago | Jan 13, 2011 10:28:07 AM

  21. I'm a born and bred Canadian and a liberal, but this is ridiculous! All pieces of art need to be taken in a context. Anyone who studies art of any kind knows that you have to examine the time and context in which it was created.

    This is just crap sensorship pushed by those who are too delicate and sensitive. The word "Faggot" will always be around just like all other words that can be deemed less than socially acceptable. That doesn't change the fact that they are used and can often play important parts in history.

    Posted by: Calvin | Jan 13, 2011 10:28:20 AM

  22. Silly... just silly. I was born in '83 and I grew up listening to Dire Straits, most notably this song, and even as a child, it was never something that bothered or offended me, having awakened to my gay self at a VERY young age. I knew what he was saying, and who he was saying it about. If I'm not mistaken, he's not making fun of gay people, but, in a round-about way, pointing out Elton John's/George Michael's success, regardless of their "station" in society, as told from the point of view of an electric goods delivery man, who is probably so unschooled that saying faggot is the only word he was raised to use in description of gay people.
    Really... 25 years? Back off this song. Its classic.

    Posted by: Patrick | Jan 13, 2011 10:40:52 AM

  23. I never like the song, but I don't recall it being censored or the song edited. They always played it straight through, or they reduced the solos to make it more commercial friendly.

    Let's all sing:

    Oh Canada! We stand on our cars and freeze!

    Posted by: anon | Jan 13, 2011 11:11:12 AM

  24. I bought that CD as a young faggot, and I loved those lines and always took them to represent solidarity between straight flamboyant rock starts and gay men.

    Posted by: DJSauvage | Jan 13, 2011 11:27:25 AM

  25. I was 11 when the song came out and it instantly became one of my favorites. It's a smart and catchy tune. Something you don't hear much of these days. I don't understand the few posters on here who support the censorship after reading the whole article. Did they read the whole article?

    Censorship - against it, whether it's this song or Mark Twain's "Huck Finn."

    Context is everything. And the PC police are whitewashing our society. Is this just the beginning? Scary.

    What temperature do books burn at? Oh, yeah, Fahrenheit 451.

    Posted by: Vince in WeHo | Jan 13, 2011 11:39:00 AM

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