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Houston Filmmakers and Actors: French viewers get a gay TV channel

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

French viewers get a gay TV channel

French viewers get a gay TV channel

Amelia Gentleman in Paris
Tuesday October 26, 2004
The Guardian

"A giant leap for television, a small step in high heels," the presenter promised, unveiling France's first gay television station which aims to make gay culture mainstream and marks a new climate of tolerance in Roman Catholic France.

Pink TV, which launched last night, promises viewers a mixture of Wonder Woman repeats, prime-time opera and gay and lesbian porn. A daily cultural review will look at issues like tourism, health, poetry and clubbing from a gay perspective, in a style which aims to be "more cosy than cheeky".

Supported by France's three main commercial television networks, the cable and satellite channel benefits from a relatively new atmosphere of openness towards homosexuality in France.

Pascal Houzelot, the station's founder and president, said the country was ready for the channel: "Pink is coming at the right moment. There's been a real change in mentality. We've seen society change, we've seen the law change ... Gays in France have gone from the era of tolerance to the era of legality, which simply means equality." The channel's creation has been met with enthusiasm in the French press.

Gay rights have been hovering at the top of the French political agenda for months. The government is pushing through legislation which allows anyone found guilty of making a homophobic remark to be punished.

Same-sex couples are recognised legally, and the fact that Paris has a gay mayor is now barely even remarked upon. However, anti-gay feeling remains; SOS Homophobia recorded a doubling on attacks on gays in 2003, with 86 reported cases, against 41 in 2002.
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The government is firmly opposed to attempts to legalise same-sex marriages and adoption by gay or lesbian couples. But Pink TV's backers are keen to stress it will not be a ghetto station, nor particularly militant in tone.

Its target audience will be among France's 3.5 million gay and lesbian population, (between 7 and 8% of the total, according to the channel's figures). But for commercial reasons, Pink TV hopes to attract a large number of straight viewers to pay the €9 (£6) monthly subscription fee, too.

Sport will be presented by a transgender newsreader in a mini-skirt, who admits to a fondness for obscure sports like underwater hockey. But the station also offers Japanese manga cartoons, documentaries on subjects like being gay in Africa, and debates and interviews presented by one of the nation's most popular broadcasters, Claire Chazal.

Pink TV will be retransmitting old episodes of Channel 4's So Graham Norton, as well as the series Queer as Folk, Tipping the Velvet and French and Saunders.

The station's financial backers hope advertisers will be eager to cash in on the power of the pink pound, but it is not clear whether their optimism is well-founded.

Libération reported yesterday that there was a shyness by large advertisers to come forward. The only two comparable channels, Italy's Gay TV which launched in 2002 and Pridevision, established in Canada in 2001, are both struggling.

Mr Houzelot believes the presence of porn films broadcast after midnight four times a week will help make things work commercially.

"Porn on Pink is editorially the right decision and economically necessary," he said, estimating that of the 180,000-odd anticipated subscribers, some 100,000 will come for the porn.

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