It was a much lauded segment on The Ellen Degeneres Show which was first aired in the United States on 12 February.
But viewers in Singapore would not have heard US President Barack Obama discuss and congratulate the well-known openly lesbian TV host for her role in helping to change the attitudes of Americans towards LGBT people.
A day with President Obama that I will never forget. The White House
Posted by Ellen DeGeneres on Friday, February 12, 2016
Appearing on a special Valentine’s Day episode, Obama told host Ellen Degeneres, ‘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.’
‘I really mean that,’ he added. ‘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.’
DeGeneres, who came out publicly in 1997 at the same time her character on her ABC sitcom Ellen did, got tearful upon hearing these words from Obama.
The segment was cut entirely from the broadcast on Tuesday, February 23, on Channel 5, an English-language general news and entertainment free-to-air channel owned by Mediacorp, a government-owned broadcaster which owns all seven free-to-air television channels in the island state.
The channel had also cut the first lady Michelle Obama’s recorded Valentine’s Day greeting addressing Ellen and her wife Portia.
Last week, Singapore actress Neo Swee Lin posted on Facebook and told Gay Star News that she had noticed that the same segment was cut from the broadcast last Wednesday on cable channel Lifetime Asia, which airs the Ellen Show across a majority of Southeast Asian countries as well as Hong Kong and Taiwan.
Gay Star News is unable to verify if the segment was indeed censored by Lifetime Asia, which is owned by US-based A+E Networks and Malaysia-based Astro Holdings. The channel did not respond to emails sent by GSN last Friday.
Pierre-Yves Baubry, a resident of Taiwan, told GSN that although he did not notice if Obama’s comments were cut on the episode, he said he has noticed that LGBTI-related content and interviews on the Ellen Show have routinely been cut by the Singapore-based cable channel.
Recalling a 2015 episode in which the cast members of ‘One Big Happy’ were on Ellen, he told GSN: ‘I remember that show because the whole discussion was about gay, lesbians, LGBT families, et cetera, and every other word was censored. So it was completely ridiculous and impossible to follow the chat they had.’
Last week, Pink Dot Singapore, which organizes an annual event to support LGBT equality, shared a video clip of the interview with President Obama on the Ellen Show on its Facebook page.
Pink Dot said in the post, ‘Because of local regulations which prohibit the positive portrayal of LGBTs in Singapore, clips such as these are routinely censored. This is unfortunate because it deprives the average Singaporean of opportunities to understand and discuss LGBT issues. If it is indeed true that President Obama‘s words were censored, it is another lost opportunity to engaging with the public on the misconceptions surrounding LGBT people.’
Singapore’s Media Development Authority’s free-to-air television program code prohibits the ‘promot(ion) or justif(ication) of a homosexual lifestyle’.
Channel 5 and other TV channels in Singapore were previously fined up to S$15,000 (US$10,600) for broadcasting LGBT-related content.