Sinful TV in Singapore

Posted on 01 May 2008 at 6:02pm
By Leslie Robinson – General Gayety

The Media Development Authority in this island nation has recently fined two different television stations for showing LGBT images

The island nation of Singapore has a population of about 4.5 million people. The country’s media watchdog is resolved that not one of those people will see homosexuals on TV.

The Media Development Authority just spanked a television station for showing the unthinkable: a gay family.

At 7:30 a.m. on Sunday, Jan. 13 of this year, MediaCorp TV Channel 5 ran an episode of "Find and Design," a home and décor series. In the episode, a gay couple wanted to transform their game room into a nursery for their adopted baby.

Being the person I am, I can’t help but wonder if the host wisecracked about the guys going from darts to diapers, pool cues to carpools.

Being the regulators they are, the MDA folks saw a bending, folding and mutilating of the rules.

On its Web site, the authority griped, "The episode contained several scenes of the gay couple with their baby as well as the presenter’s congratulations and acknowledgement of them as a family unit in a way which normalizes their gay lifestyle and unconventional family setup."

Oh dear. Singapore is sure to sink into the sea now.

The episode violated the "Free-to-Air TV Program Code," which forbids shows that "promote, justify or glamorize gay lifestyles." MDA decided to levy a fine, penalizing MediaCorp TV roughly $11,000, because of "the severity of the breach."

It was severe all right!

"Find and Design" treated gay people like normal people. What if that wild idea took root in Singapore? Gay Singaporeans would want to have babies! Straight Singaporeans would want to have game rooms!

The authority got tough with the station for two more reasons as well. The episode ran early Sunday morning, when children could be watching. If Singaporean households are anything like American, nobody but children would be watching at that hour.

Also, this was the station’s second breach. MDA’s statement didn’t describe the first infraction; perhaps Channel 5 slipped in a show featuring gay dolphins.

I assumed at first that the statement referred to an incident that gained international headlines a few weeks before this one did. But in that case it was a cable operator that received a fine.

The authority required StarHub Cable Vision to do financial penance for airing a commercial twice last November that showed two lesbians kissing. The ad ran on MTV’s Mandarin-language channel, and promoted a song by Mandarin pop singer Olivia Yan.

I don’t know who Olivia Yan is, but if she’s running ads with kissing lesbians, I better find out.

MDA’s statement on the matter averred, "Within the commercial, romanticized scenes of two girls kissing were shown and it portrayed the relationship as acceptable. This is in breach of the TV advertising guidelines, which disallows advertisements that condone homosexuality."

On this occasion the authority took into account "the severity of the breach," and the fact that the ad ran on a channel aimed at youth, and that StarHub Cable apparently gave an unsatisfactory explanation.

All of it added up to a fine of $7,200.

So in a matter of weeks, Singapore’s media regulator has handed out fines for breaching the TV Advertising Code and the Program Code.

The offense in both cases was normalizing gay people. Perhaps this should be called pink-collar crime.

These two incidents suggest that Singaporean broadcasters have either been careless lately, or they’re deliberately pushing the local envelope. And regulators are making a point of sealing it right back up.

In Singapore gay sex is illegal, but rarely prosecuted. Last year several Pride events were disallowed.

Singapore is experiencing an internal push-pull over gays. And the conflict is in the air — and on it.

Leslie Robinson’s columns are available online at www.GeneralGayety.com.





This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 2, 2008.


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