While driving to work this morning, the local classic rock station talked about a story which the brilliant Alan Cross describes in detail here. The short of it is this: The Dire Straits song Money for Nothing has been around for 25+ years. For those who don't know, this song was controversial when it was released because the word "baggins" is used in it 3 times in the second verse. One can debate in what context it was used but as one might expect, this offends some people. There are altered versions of the song that radio stations have been able to play at their discretion but most chose to play the original, including CHEZ 106 here in Ottawa. They have been playing the original version of the song for over 25 years.
However, recently a single person from Newfoundland complained to the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council, an organisation which is to Canadian broadcasters which the ESRB is to game publishers. It was setup to allow the industry to regulate itself to keep our incompetent and corrupt CRTC (our version of the FCC) out of their hair. They agreed with this person's complaint and ruled that the original version of Money for Nothing can no longer be played on any Canadian radio station. Stations are free to play the censored versions of the song but playing the original will result in fines and possible legal action.
The morning hosts on CHEZ 106 talked about this some and while they were annoyed and clear have a stake in this, they made the obvious point that the song has been played for 25+ years without a problem. Clearly, virtually everyone has heard the word before (and if they haven't, two minutes on the Internet will ensure they experience its common use) and no one is suddenly going to go out and commit hate crimes or start slandering gay people because they heard the song. While I respect that this was in theory a private body and not the government that came to this decision, I think it's ridiculous. Where has it become part of our system of legislation that people have a legal right to not be offended by anything? Why does one whiny person who feels their views should be forced on everyone have more influence than the hundreds who have already called the CBSC saying they don't care about this? Why can this person simply not change the station if they hear something they don't like? Personally, I hate how much Neil Young CHEZ 106 plays but I'm not making phone calls saying he should be banned, I simply change to DAWG FM or Live 88.5 when I hear it. This is of course when I listen to the radio at all which is rare.
So I guess my question here really is this: Given the accessibility of radio to everyone and that it doesn't have parental controls like a console does, should it be legally ensured that language with offensive lyrics not be played? Should the same standards be enforced against bottom-rung shock hosts and morning shows? Should there be a statute of limitations on songs where if they've been played without an issue for a certain time, they can't be legislated later? Personally, I think stations should be allowed to play what they want and people should be free not to listen but I wonder if too big a deal is being made of this or not.