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Gay slur in lyrics disqualifies Dire Straits hit from Canadian radio play

Former Dire Straits lead singer Mark Knopfler performs during a concert in Barcelona, Spain, on June 13, 2006.

GUSTAU NACARINO/Gustau Nacarino/Reuters

The Dire Straits song Money For Nothing, a staple of classic-rock radio and music-video oldies shows, has been ruled as too offensive for the airways, two and a half decades after its original release.

The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council has found that the word "faggot" in the lyrics breaches the council's code of ethics. The decision is in response to a complaint against radio station OZ FM in Newfoundland for broadcasting the song last February.

Money For Nothing has been a source of controversy since it first appeared on the Dire Straits album Brothers In Arms in 1985.

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The hit song, which gave Dire Straits major international status, depicts the thoughts of a "custom kitchen" delivery man, lamenting that he never learned to play an instrument and become a rock star on MTV in order to escape his workaday life. But its lyrics - in the character of the delivery man, about women as "chicks for free" and musicians banging on "bongos like a chimpanzee" - has brought the song condemnation as being sexist, racist and homophobic over the years.

An edited version of the original version of the song, which runs more than eight minutes, is often frequently aired. However, OZ FM argued to the standards council that its on-air format is to play songs in their original version.

In a statement to the council in March, it said that the song "is regarded by many as an historically successful and essential rock hit in that form with these particular lyrics." The council said that the song could be aired in an edited version without the offending word.

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Guy Dixon is a feature writer for The Globe and Mail. More

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