Decades-old Dire Straits song deemed unsuitable for radio play

Decades-old Dire Straits song deemed unsuitable for radio play

Dire Straits frontman Mark Knopfler in 1981 (Image: Victor Schiferli)

The Dire Straits song “Money for Nothing,” that staple of classic rock playlists, will no longer be heard on Canadian radio unedited, thanks to a recent ruling by the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council. The decision comes after a listener complained last February about the use of the word “faggot” in the song. The lines in question go like this:

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 millionair

St. John’s CHOZ-FM, the broadcaster named in the complaint, argued that “Money for Nothing” has been played countless times since its release in 1985, but the CBSC panel ruled that the term, even if it was once deemed appropriate, is no longer suitable for radio play. The ruling also stated that the song could still be played if appropriately edited.

Mark Knopfler, the Dire Straits frontman who co-wrote the song, has yet to weigh in on this censorship debate this time round. Back in 1985, Knopfler talked to Rolling Stone about the offending line:

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.

Is this a Canadian version of the Mark Twain N-word debate? Or a victory against homophobia? We’re not quite sure what to think.

Gay slur in lyrics disqualifies Dire Straits hit from Canadian radio play [Globe and Mail]
Use of Derogatory Word for Gays in a Song Breaches Broadcast Codes [Broadcaster]
Classic rock song censored for its lyrics [Toronto Sun]