The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) handed down a decision last week banning radio stations from airing the original version of the Dire Straits’ song Money For Nothing for using the word “faggot.” The decision to censor the 25-year-old rock song is just the latest in a series of ridiculous rulings that have been handed down under this privatized censorship regime.
The council has also ruled against songs from Matthew Good Band, NOFX, the Tragically Hip and Limp Bizkit, among others. Even comedians, who are usually able to get away with provocative speech, are not immune to censorship. Two separate decisions have been handed down against a morning show in Calgary for making sexually explicit remarks as part of news parodies and joke songs. Neither does the CBSC allow for the airing of religious viewpoints. At the end of December it effectively censored Christian talk show host Charles McVety for remarks he made on his television program.
At the time, I wrote that the religious television station CTS should ignore the decision because religious freedom and freedom of speech should trump the will of the censors. But now the council’s actually censoring history retroactively. How many more songs will be censored once the council members start pulling out their old record collections? Given the nature of this decision, which has produced a vitriolic reaction among the Canadian public, broadcasters should opt-out of the council altogether and take their chances with the government censors.
These stations should be applauded for taking a principled stand against censorship and should not be afraid of losing their CBSC membership. In fact, they should give it up voluntarily.
The Broadcast Standards Council is a self-regulating body made up of a consortium of private broadcasters. It was created in an attempt to stave off the threat of increased government regulation, but has resulted in an unaccountable and unthinking bureaucracy — which sounds like what we’d have if the government had created something similar. But since membership in the CBSC is voluntary, radio and television stations are free to leave. They should.
The government would probably then simply make membership compulsory, or create their own censorship panels. But least then we could stick a microphone in the Heritage Minister’s face and ask him to explain to Canadians why artistic expression is being censored.