Obama’s appearance on Ellen gets censored on Channel 5
Is the MDA’s decision to censor portrayals of the LGBT community doing more harm than good?
Singaporean authorities have cut a certain segment on a local broadcast of The Ellen DeGeneres show. The segment showed US president Barack Obama expressing pro-LGBT sentiments.
What’s going on?
Barack Obama made a guest appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show in their recent Valentine’s Day episode, and one particular segment between the host and US president touched on the topic of LGBT issues.
At one point during this segment, Ellen, who is openly lesbian, was visibly moved when Obama told her: “As much as we’ve done with laws et cetera, [when it comes to] changing hearts and minds – I don’t think anybody has been more influential than you on that.”
However, Singaporeans did not get to view this segment of the show as it was cut to adhere to the MDA’s guidelines. It was removed from the Feb 23 broadcast on the free-to-air Channel 5, as well as Starhub’s cable channel, Lifetime Asia.
Channel 5 confirmed on The Straits Times that the segment was cut for “Obama’s firm endorsement and support of gay rights issues”.
Many people noticed the discrepancy and were unhappy, notably local actress Neo Swee Lin, who took to Facebook and informed Gay Star News, an international online publication focusing on the worldwide LGBT community.
PinkDot, one of Singapore’s biggest LGBT movements, also expressed their disapproval through Facebook.
Censoring anything that normalises LGBT behaviour is common here in Singapore. The MDA’s guideline bans content that “justifies, promotes or glamorizes gay lifestyle”, and this has been a topic of debate for a long time.
However, not everyone is opposed to the censorship. Some believe that it plays a big role in maintaining peace and religious harmony (especially in a multi-religious country), and are sympathetic towards MDA’s efforts to cater to everyone’s values and beliefs.
Nadya Haifan, 19, who is applying to university, said: “I think our society isn’t ready for such huge changes as it’ll always be prone to some sort of violent backlash, so any change has to be made gradually.”
She added: “Censorship is just a short-term solution, so I’m hoping that it will be lifted in the future once our society becomes more progressive.”
Others feel that it is harmful to always cater to values that are conservative as there will not be any progress at all.
Nas Shah, 18, who just received his IB Diploma, said: “LGBT issues are getting larger and more relevant, so authorities shouldn’t be avoiding it. Making information like this less accessible to us widens the gap between the government and its people.”
“While I understand the need to preserve peace, it’s also important to let the silenced be heard. Censorship is a form of erasure and it makes it hard for members of LGBT to be heard,” he said.
What’s your take?
1. Is censorship an effective solution to soothe tensions between different groups? Why?
2. Which is more important – preserving peace or raising discourse on issues raised by underrepresented social groups?