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Standards Council agrees to review controversial 'Money for Nothing' decision

The 1985 Dire Straits hit Money for Nothing may get a reprieve from a ruling that found it inappropriate for Canadian airwaves.

The CRTC, the government regulator, formally asked the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council on Friday to review the decision and the council agreed to take another look at the issue.

The council, a private industry watchdog, last week found the song unfit for radio because its lyrics include the anti-gay slur "faggot" three times.

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But the CRTC found it was catching flak from angry Canadians who mistakenly blamed it for the ruling. It said it has received about 250 letters, most of them disagreeing with the finding.

It is sending the mail to the council, along with a request for another review of the song.

"The volume of letters and perceived overlap of responsibilities between the commission and the CBSC has created uncertainty for the public and for radio stations requiring information on the continued appropriateness of playing that version of the song," Robert A. Morin, secretary general of the CRTC, wrote to the standards council.

The commission asked the council to appoint a panel with a "national composition" to review the complaint regarding Money for Nothing, as well as the original decision.

The council's Atlantic regional panel ruled the lyrics inappropriate after CHOZ-FM in St. John's, N.L., played the song last February. It provoked a complaint from a listener who wrote: "I find this extremely offensive as a member of the LGBT community."

The CRTC said the review should consider "the age and origin of the song and the date of its performance," "the prominence of the contested word in the song and the use of that word over time," and "the length of time and frequency that it has been playing on the airwaves."

The panel which made the original decision said it considered the origins of the song.

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"The panel concludes that, like other racially driven words in the English language, 'faggot' is one that, even if entirely or marginally acceptable in earlier days, is no longer so," said its Jan. 12 decision.

The CRTC asked for a fast ruling and the council said in a news release it will be quick: "The CBSC will appoint a national panel to deal with the Money for Nothing matter on an across-Canada basis, in the light of additional information about the song that has been, and will be, forwarded to the CBSC by members of the public from across Canada. It will complete the review as expeditiously as possible."

Many have noted the offensive word in the song was meant ironically and was spoken by a character who was unimpressed with the rock stars he saw on MTV.

The original decision sparked an outcry from music fans around the world. Some Canadian radio stations continued to play the unedited version in protest.

Even Dire Straits keyboardist Guy Fletcher weighed in on his personal website, calling the ban "unbelievable."

"If old words offend, get over it," he wrote.

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He also wrote: "A part of me understands the decision. It's still rather stupid and the fact that the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council can make a ruling such as this, completely missing the context in which it's used, says rather a lot about the society in which we live."

The council itself issued some explanatory comments on its website after publishing its findings.

"The Atlantic regional panel did not ban the song," the council said. "The CBSC has no authority to ban any song. Nor would it have any interest in doing that. The panel only concluded that the word 'faggot' is inappropriate for radio broadcast, and that principle applies to spoken word or musical broadcasts."

Money for Nothing was a major hit upon its release a generation ago. It won a Grammy, reached No. 1 on the charts in Canada and the U.S. and spawned a famous music video that featured crude computer animation and became interwoven with the popularity of the then-fledgling music network MTV.

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