Use of n-word in Bob Dylan song found not to breach NZ broadcast standards, BSA finds

The use of the n-word in the Bob Dylan song Hurricane has been found not to breach broadcasting standards by the Broadcasting Standards Authority.

The protest song about the imprisonment of boxer Rubin “Hurricane” Carter for murder was released in 1975 and its lyrics include “to the black folks he was just a crazy n*****”.

The complainant considered those lyrics to be “offensive, racist and unacceptable”.

After considering the complaint, the BSA ruled not to uphold it under the good taste and decency and discrimination and denigration standards due to a number of contextual factors.

Those factors include the historical significance of the song, Dylan’s history of using his songs to address social injustice and inequality and the audience expectations of Coast FM, which played the song.

“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 said.

“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.”

The BSA acknowledged that recent research found a substantial portion of society found the use of the n-word in broadcasting unacceptable.

“We do not condone the use of this word in everyday usage – it is powerful and offensive,” the authority said in a statement.

Bob Dylan and Rubin "Hurricane" Carter. Source: Getty