“Baby, It’s Cold Outside” absent from Bell, Rogers, CBC, Stingray holiday radio playlists

Esther Williams and Ricardo Montalbán in Neptune's Daughter, the 1949 MGM film that "Baby, It's Cold Outside" was first featured in.

Amidst controversy about the lyrics of Baby, It’s Cold Outside in the era of the #MeToo movement, Bell, Rogers, CBC and Stingray are among the Canadian networks opting not to add the tune to holiday playlists this year.

The classic duet had become a source of annual debate for the last few years for its predatory overtones, juxtaposed by the views of those decrying that the art of seduction was dead.

News emerged last week that Star 102 (WDOK-FM) Cleveland had pulled Baby, It’s Cold Outside from its 24/7 Christmas music format in response to listener complaints. Other stations have since announced they’re following suit.

WDOK-FM midday host Glenn Anderson told the Associated Press, that while he recognizes that society was different when the song was written back in the 1940s, he doesn’t think it has a place today, particularly in the era of the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment.

“We used to play the song Baby, It’s Cold Outside, but you’re the Christmas Executive Officer at Star 102 and you told us it’s no longer appropriate. I gotta be honest, I didn’t understand why the lyrics were so bad… until I read them,” wrote Anderson in a post to the Star 102 website.

Written by Frank Loesser, the song first appeared in the 1949 MGM film Neptune’s Daughter, and won the Academy Award that year for Best Song.

In the film, the song was sung by Esther Williams and Ricardo Montalbán, and later Betty Garrett and Red Skelton, where Garrett takes on the role of the aggressor.

Bell Media told Broadcast Dialogue that the song wasn’t scheduled across the network this year.

“The song wasn’t scheduled for airplay on any Bell Media Radio stations and there are no plans to play it in the future,” said Scott Henderson, vice-president, Communications,” in an emailed statement.

Rogers Radio said 98.1 CHFI-FM Toronto, which annually flips to an all-Christmas format, hasn’t played the tune in more than a year.

Initially, Stingray Radio (formerly Newcap) left the decision up to individual program directors, but following the controversy decided it was best to stop playing the song altogether across the network.

“Offending people isn’t the purpose of Christmas music. Whether we agree with each other or not, the reality is that if some people are offended by the lyrics, we can certainly live without it and not offend those listeners,” said Steve Jones, SVP, Brands and Content, Radio.

A spokesperson for Corus Radio said some of its stations are still playing the song in limited rotation.

“On our stations that play Christmas music, we currently have the song in limited rotation,” said Chris Sarpong, Communications for Corus Radio. “We are gauging the reaction of our audience, which to this point has been in favour of continuing to play it.”

The duet has been recorded by a few dozen famous duos over the years, including Ella Fitzgerald and Louis JordanSammy Davis, Jr. and Carmen McRae, Brian Setzer and Ann-Margret, Lee Ann Womack and Harry Connick, Jr., Rod Stewart and Dolly Parton, James Taylor and Natalie Cole, Willie Nelson and Norah Jones, and Idina Menzel and Michael Bublé, among others.

Minneapolis-based songwriters Lydia Liza and Josiah Lemanski recorded an alternate version of the tune in 2016 with revised lyrics that address the issue of consent. Available to download on Spotify, the track raises money for Minneapolis’ Sexual Violence Center and other organizations that work to end sexual assault.

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