London radio station sanctioned for playing Jay Electronica song with anti-Semitic lyrics

Rapper Jay Electronica. Photo: Abdul Aziz/Wikimedia Commons.

Ofcom, UK communications regulator announcement last week that he sanctioned a London-based community radio station for playing a song by rapper Jay Electronica that “contained anti-Semitic lyrics”.

FM flush released the song “Better in Tune With the Infinite” on July 12, 2020. The track includes the lyrics: “Synagogues of Satan might accuse me or imprison me; Strip me, crown me, nail me, sulfur greets me; They could defeat the flesh but they could never kill me; They might feel the music but they could never feel me; To lawyers, sheriffs, judges; To creditors and legislators; Fuck you, sue me, bill me.

The radio station aired the profanity in the song, but aired the rest without editing and without commentary.

In a decision published on July 19 of that year, Ofcom found that by playing the track without edits or commentary, FM flush violated Ofcom Broadcast Code by disseminating content that “contained non-contextualized hate speech and derogatory and abusive treatment of Jews, and was therefore also potentially offensive and insufficiently justified by context.”

As part of the sanctions imposed last week, FM flush must issue a statement of Ofcom’s findings and decision to listeners.

Ofcom also found that “these lyrics would have been understood by some listeners to suggest that Jewish people are evil or worship the devil and portrayed Jewish people and Judaism in a negative and stereotypical light”.

The media regulator further said that Jay Electronica’s words would also “could have evoked for UK listeners the anti-Semitic allegation that Jews are collectively responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus Christ”.

The offensive lyrics “may also have been interpreted by some UK listeners as evoking a common derogatory stereotype that Jews disproportionately control businesses, economic systems and other influential institutions,” Ofcom explained.

In a letter sent to Ofcom in October 2021, FM flush argued that the words “synagogues of Satan” were taken from the Bible, and that finding it controversial “would ultimately lead to the accusation that the Bible itself is anti-Semitic, which would open up a much wider and controversial debate”. They also disagreed that the lyrics were “objectively offensive to our community or to the general public.”

The radio station argued that it was unable to properly present its case regarding the playing of the track because Ofcom’s investigation “did not take sufficient account of the size and the scale of FM flushand the resources it has to defend its position, which it said were not comparable to those of major licensees, especially in light of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

The show’s presenter claimed that the track did not contain “negative connotations towards Jewish people or any particular religion”, and that in the lyrics, Jay Electronica expresses “his struggles within the music industry by as an artist”.

Ofcom said they contacted Jay Electronica’s management company to give the artist an opportunity to preview his lyrics, but numerous follow-up attempts with their contact and the singer’s legal representative went unanswered. .

Ofcom added in its decision: “We also considered that the phrase ‘synagogue of Satan’ has often been taken out of its original biblical context and used as a form of abuse against the Jewish people and Judaism. .. We therefore did not accept that the Biblical origins of the phrase would mitigate the anti-Semitic content included in the lyrics.

In its new decision, Ofcom said it believed FM flush “was treated fairly during the investigation process and in accordance with Ofcom’s procedures for investigating breaches of content standards for television and radio.”

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