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Updated: 8th January 2019 16:56

Pop experts dissect Dire Straits brouhaha

A University of Calgary professor says he's surprised someone didn't complain years ago about the lyrics to the Dire Straits song, Money for Nothing.

University of Calgary professor and pop culture expert Bart Beaty says he's surprised it took 25 years for a complaint to nudge an uncensored Dire Straits song off the radio waves. ((CBC))

A University of Calgary professor has said he's surprised someone didn't complain years ago about the lyrics to the Dire Straits song, Money for Nothing.

The song was a big hit when it came out in 1985.

But the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council is now telling radio stations to play an edited version, following a complaint that some lyrics are derogatory to gays.

The CBSC has said the song contravenes the human rights clauses of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters' Code of Ethics and Equitable Portrayal Code.

Canadian radio stations to play unedited Dire Straits song

"The standards are unable to deal with historical specificity, with the fact that the language has changed a great deal over the past quarter-century, and it also can't deal with the fact that the song is meant to be ironic," said Bart Beaty, a pop culture expert and professor in the University of Calgary's communication and culture department.

Last year, a listener to radio station CHOZ-FM in St. John's complained that the 1980s rock song includes the word "faggot" in its lyrics and is discriminatory to gays.

Beaty said the language is objectionable and he's surprised complaints hadn't been heard before, but added that lead singer Mark Knopfler is playing a character in the song, symbolizing the blue-collar British workers who mocked musicians like himself.

Beaty believes Knopfler would understand the decision taken by the CBSC since the singer has produced his own

cleaned-up version of the song, much like rap artists do when they produce a track with offensive lyrics that wouldn't make it on the radio, he said.

Terry DiMonte, a classic rock broadcaster at Calgary's Q107, takes a more jaundiced view of the controversy.

"I'm always annoyed when government steps in, especially when it comes to art. I think artists are supposed to push the boundaries," DiMonte said.

"If something offends you, you should just change the station.… Mark Knopfler was taking a shot at people who used that kind of offensive language."

Terry DiMonte, a classic rock broadcaster at Calgary's Q107, says that if something on the radio offends you, you should change the station. ((CBC)) He likened it to the ongoing debate in the United States over the reprinting of Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn with the removal of the n-word.

"Those things [in Money for Nothing ] said something about who we are or who we were back in 1985," said DiMonte. "We're missing a teaching moment here. Much as the same way that you present Huck Finn to kids and say, 'Now listen: at the time when this book was written Twain was reflecting his era.'"

The broadcast standards council is an independent, non-governmental group created to administer standards established by its members, Canada's private broadcasters. Its membership includes more than 700 private radio and TV stations across the country.


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