ROME - Gay rights groups charged Wednesday that Italy's state television censored Ang Lee's "Brokeback Mountain" when it aired the Oscar-winning movie by cutting scenes of gay sex.
Activists protested that RAI TV would never have dropped similar scenes had they involved a heterosexual couple, and politicians called for the incident to be discussed in parliament. RAI said it had aired the cut version by mistake.
"Brokeback Mountain" is a cowboy romance about two ranch-hand buddies who start an affair when they meet on the fictional mountain in the 1960s. The 2005 movie won three Oscars, including the best director award for Lee, as well as the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival.
RAI's second channel aired the film late Monday cutting out a sex scene and a sequence showing a kiss between the lead characters, played by the late Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal.
"I don't believe it was an oversight, I believe it was preventive censorship," said gay rights advocate and former lawmaker Vladimir Luxuria. In an interview with La Repubblica daily, Luxuria said cutting the key scenes was "like showing the Mona Lisa without its head."
RAI said in a statement the film had arrived from the distributor already cut so that it could be shown in prime time. When it was decided to air it late at night, no one checked for the uncut version, it said. RAI pledged to show the complete movie soon.
Some commentators and politicians were not satisfied, saying the cuts would not have been justified even if the film had been aired earlier.
"It is grotesque that RAI censored scenes that have the same content as those seen in most prime-time movies," Benedetto Della Vedova, a conservative lawmaker, was quoted as saying by the Corriere della Sera newspaper. Luigi Vimercati, a center-left lawmaker, told Corriere he would take up the issue in parliament.
In overwhelmingly Roman Catholic Italy, skimpily dressed women are a fixture on many TV programs, while scenes of sex and violence in movies are generally left untouched.
Massimo Gramellini, a top commentator for La Stampa daily, wrote in a front-page editorial: "I would like to understand why a kiss between two gays ... should offend our sensibilities more than scenes of heterosexual sex or bloodthirsty violence."