For once, I take CKUT’s side

Here’s an interesting blog post concerning a complaint I’d never heard about before, filed against CKUT (Radio McGill) by an uptight Montrealer. Apparently the radio station, which is known for being … anarchist pinko commie Islam-apologist Christian-hating militant anti-American pro-big-government and yet anti-government left-wingers, aired a song called “Banging in the Nails”, which supposedly “gleefully mocked” the Crucifixion.

CKUT’s reaction to the complaint is surprisingly conciliatory. They issued an apology acknowledging that they could have been a bit more careful with presenting such strong sentiments without sufficient context, and “started a dialogue” (they’re all about dialogue those kids). Their reaction may have had something to do with being scared out of their minds that the normally laid-back CRTC had presented them with a complaint.

CKUT’s apology didn’t please the complainants, and their counter-offer apology text didn’t sit well with CKUT, so off to mommy they went.

The decision, which notes that the CRTC “does not regulate taste”, ruled in favour of CKUT, saying the song, taken in a larger context, clearly denotes a satirical comment in bad taste, but not an abusive comment targeted at a religious group.

One concern I have with the CRTC decision, however, is that it is based in part on the fact that CKUT is a university radio station and the show is a showcase for alternative bands. The implication is that, if this song had been played on Mix 96 or some other mainstream station, the decision might have been different.

But perhaps I’m just being paranoid.

4 thoughts on “For once, I take CKUT’s side

  1. Josh

    Regarding your last point, I can’t say I agree. It makes perfect sense to me that the CRTC would have different rules for commercial and not-for-profit broadcasters.

    Some years ago, Bono won a music award (I think it was at the Billboard Awards?) and after receiving it, exclaimed from the podium on NBC’s airwaves ‘Fucking brilliant!’. The FCC fined NBC, but didn’t fine NPR for rebroadcasting the clip later on, during a discussion of the merits of the FCC’s reaction. In short, there’s little value in Imus or Stern, but there can be value in dissections of Imus and Stern, and I imagine that’s the sort of angle the CRTC is coming from here.

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  2. adelaide of york

    Mix 96 (or, more likely, their parent company) keeps tabs on their target audience, and airs music that is believed to appeal to that demographic. It’s also probably a member of one or more broadcast standards associations, and thus polices itself efficiently. The odds that a similar situation would arise on a commercial radio station are low. Practices of self-discipline, my friend, consult your Foucault. :P

    Josh, you might be interested in a book called “Freedom of Expression®: Overzealous Copyright Bozos and Other Enemies of Creativity” by Kembrew McLeod. (More info at kembrew.com.) He exposes several instances where copyright law impedes academics from doing research and teaching media studies. I saw him show his work-in-progress documentary “Copyright Criminal” at a popular music conference and found it persuasive. Allowing fair use for scholastic/ educational purposes (which I assume is how the NPR justified rebroadcasting the footage) is absolutely a good thing. It looks like freedom of expression won the CKUT case, though.

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