Obama's pro-LGBT comments on talk show censored on TV here

US President Barack Obama's praise of Ellen DeGeneres' role in gay rights advocacy was edited out in the Singapore broadcast of The Ellen DeGeneres Show. PHOTO: REUTERS

SINGAPORE - A controversy has broken out online over the censorship of American President Barack Obama's pro-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 censored speech is 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 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" is 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 co-workers. And then attitudes shift. And the law is followed, but it started with folks like you. I'm so proud of you."

According to local actor Lim Kay Siu, 56, the censorship of Mr Obama's speeech on the Ellen show also occurred on cable TV channel Lifetime (StarHub TV Channel 514).

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

"Viewers can catch it online anyway, so who do the broadcasters think they are protecting?"

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

According to clause 6.4 of the Subscription TV Programme Code, "programmes that depict a homosexual lifestyle should be sensitive to community values. They should not, promote or justify a homosexual lifestyle".

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