The Broadcasting Standards Authority has defended Bob Dylan after a complaint was made against his song ‘Hurricane’.
The song, which was originally written by Dylan as as protest song alongside Jacques Levy, addresses the imprisonment of Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter. The song compiles and details alleged acts of racism against Carter.
The complaint was made against Coast, a New Zealand radio station that is broadcasted in 12 markets across the country. The complaint was made by listener Grant Avery who, after hearing the station broadcast the 43-year-old song, said it was “offensive, racist and unacceptable.”
“The song and Bob Dylan’s use of this word is nearly 50 years old,” he said in an interview with the Herald. “The acceptability and tolerance of the word that existed 50 years ago in society does not exist today,” he added.
The contentious lyrics taken from Bob Dylan song ‘Hurricane’:
“To the white folks who watched he was a revolutionary bum / And to the black folks he was just a crazy nigger / No one doubted that he pulled the trigger.”
Despite his complaints, Avery’s claim was dismissed by the Broadcasting Standards Authority who don’t believe that Coast Radio broke the good taste and decency and discrimination and degeneration standards of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice.
“The song itself has social and historical significance and tells a story of racial injustice and inequality experienced by African Americans in the 1960s,” the BSA ruling stated. “It could be argued that the song itself is an example of the power of the right to freedom of expression. The language and expressions used is integral to the narrative of the story told through the song,” they added.
David Brice, content director of Coast, also took the decision to defend the choice of song, adding: “I completely concur from where the BSA was coming from in terms of the severity of people’s discomfort in use of the word,” he said.
“But why I thought we had to contest the complainant’s view was because of the history of the song and the fact it was used in the context of African Americans.
“I thought the perspective the complainant was coming from was all wrong – it’s not a word which should be used but in the context of that song, it is what it is.”