Thursday, January 13, 2011

This Post Includes Offensive Content.

If you haven't heard about it already you're likely to over the next few days.  The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council wants Canadian radio stations to stop playing the unedited version of Dire Straits' 1985 hit "Money For Nothing."  The problem is the use of faggot in the lyrics.  This story will of course prompt a bunch of yelling about government censorship.

But wait a moment.  It's not the government who wants the song removed.  The CBSC is run by the broadcast industry, not government.  The industry is policing itself.  And let's not hear any "slippery slope" arguments either.  Canadian radio stations already play versions of current hits where words many find offensive, like nigger, are edited out.  So removing one word from one verse of "Money For Nothing" is more a nuisance than anything else.

How offensive language should be dealt with is a question with no easy answers.  Unlike other media music on the radio has the problem that it's not really practical to warn for content on a specific basis.  Compare this with TV or the movies, which can warn in advance for offensive words in a specific piece of content.  It is also easier for viewers to realise that the words a character uses don't necessarily reflect the beliefs of the performer than it is in a song, where the tendency is often to assume the singer of a song and the persona in the song are the same. 

And let's also not forget that the song is still available for anyone to listen to in its original form on CD etc.  If not hearing one word ruins your enjoyment of a piece so much perhaps you shouldn't be listening to music on radio, which often airs versions of music shortened for one reason or another.

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