Gay Asians outraged over TV censorship of Oscars

Gay Asians voiced indignation on Wednesday after television broadcasts of the Academy Awards in their region censored the words “gay” and “lesbian” in speeches that called for equal rights for homosexuals.

The speeches by actor Sean Penn and writer Dustin Lance Black—who won Oscars for their work in Milk—were shown in full during live broadcasts of the Oscars that were screened across Asia on Monday morning.

But viewers who caught recorded telecasts in the evening on Star, an Asian satellite TV service that says it reaches more than 300-million viewers in 53 countries, noticed that the sound was removed whenever both men mentioned “gay” or “lesbian”.

“As a gay man, I am truly offended,” Pang Khee Teik, a prominent Malaysian arts commentator, wrote in a letter sent out to several media organisations. “Stop censoring the words that describe who I am.”

Pang said the move “sent a message ... that gays and lesbians are still shameful things to be censored from the public’s ears”.

Users of internet forums in Singapore and India also complained about the censored speeches.

Jannie Poon, Star’s Hong Kong-based spokesperson, stressed that the company had no intention of upsetting any viewers, but said it has “a responsibility to take the sensitivities and guidelines of all our markets into consideration”.

Poon said she was not immediately aware that the speeches had been censored, but noted that Star’s preliminary ratings for the Oscar broadcasts indicated “record-breaking” audiences, especially in India and Taiwan.

Viewers first noticed that the words were silenced when Black offered a tribute to slain American gay-rights pioneer Harvey Milk while accepting the Oscar for best original screenplay for Milk.

“If Harvey had not been taken from us 30 years ago, I think he would want me to say to all the gay and lesbian kids out there tonight ...
that you are beautiful, wonderful creatures of value, and that no matter what anyone tells you, God does love you,” Black said.

Penn, who was named best actor for playing Milk, commented in his speech on California’s recent vote to ban gay marriage.

“For those who saw the signs of hatred as our cars drove in tonight, I think it’s a good time for those who voted for the ban against gay marriage to sit and reflect on their great shame and their shame in their grandchildren’s eyes if they continue that support,” Penn said.—Sapa-AP

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