Singapore cuts Obama’s LGBT comments on Ellen

PHOTO: YOUTUBE

A controversy has broken out online over the editing of American President Barack Obama’s pro-lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) comments in an episode of The Ellen DeGeneres Show that aired on Singapore TV.

In the episode that aired in the United States on Feb 12, Mr Obama praised the openly gay talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres for her role in advocating gay rights.

When it aired in Singapore on Feb 23 on Mediacorp’s Channel 5, the segment was edited out.

Netizens discovered the discrepancy between the original episode and the Singapore version after news website gaystarnews.com reported it. Mr Obama’s remarks are available for viewing in full on YouTube.

Mr Lee Hung Sheng, assistant vice-president of programming for Mediacorp Channel 5, confirmed to The Straits Times that the American leader’s speech was cut.

He said: “In compliance with Singapore’s Free-To-Air TV programme guidelines, the brief segment on Mr Obama’s firm endorsement and support of gay rights issues was edited out for our broadcast on Channel 5.

“The removal of the segment did not pose any continuity issues with our televised programme.”

According to clause 3.2 of the said Free-To-Air TV Programme Code, “all programmes broadcast between 6am and 10pm must be suitable for family audiences”.

Programmes with “mature content” are described in the code’s annex as topics such as “drug use, prostitution or homosexuality”.

The Media Development Authority’s website states that “while MDA does not pre-vet TV programmes, broadcasters are to ensure that their programmes are in line with MDA’s content guidelines which have been developed in consultation with the community”.

In that episode of The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Mr Obama had said to the talk-show host: “As much as we’ve done with laws and ending ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’, et cetera, changing hearts and minds – I don’t think anybody has been more influential than you on that.

“You being willing to claim who you were, that suddenly empowers other people. And then suddenly, it’s your brother, it’s your uncle, it’s your best friend, it’s your coworkers. And then attitudes shift. And the law is followed, but it started with folks like you. I’m so proud of you.”

According to Singapore actor Lim Kay Siu, 56, the editing of Mr Obama’s speech on the Ellen show also occurred on cable TV channel Lifetime (StarHub TV Channel 514).

He says that the segment was edited so seamlessly that he did not realise it was cut. He adds: “That’s even worse, isn’t it, that we didn’t even know? I saw the speech on YouTube only later on and was just shocked that the whole section was cut out.”

Lifetime channel did not respond to The Straits Times’ queries by press time.

According to clause 6.4 of the Subscription Television Programme Code: “Programmes that depict a homosexual lifestyle should be sensitive to community values. They should not promote or justify a homosexual lifestyle.”

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 25, 2016, with the headline 'Singapore cuts Obama’s LGBT comments on Ellen'. Print Edition | Subscribe