Gay TV comes to France

BY admin

September 29 2004 12:00 AM ET

The transgendered sportscaster wears a miniskirt; the porn is gay, lesbian, and bisexual; and Wonder Woman will be on every night at 7. France's first gay television channel, PinkTV, is an eye-opener. And that's the point. Pink's founders believe there's a ready audience--and not just among France's estimated 3.5 million gays--for TV that is different. Pink's "a giant leap for television, a small step in high heels," said presenter Eric Gueho in a promotional clip shown at the channel's unveiling Tuesday, which was feted with pink champagne. "Gays are speaking to the French. But not all French speak to gays. But it will come." Well, maybe. This at times surprisingly conservative and largely Roman Catholic country is still divided when it comes to homosexuality.

France has in recent years made big strides, legally recognizing gay couples and electing a gay mayor for Paris. Homophobic remarks will be punishable with prison and fines under a draft law expected to be debated in parliament before the year's end. But the group SOS Homophobia recorded a doubling in attacks on gays last year, with 86 cases versus 41 in 2002. In January a 35-year-old gay man was severely burned by attackers who doused him with gasoline and ignited it. Sebastien Nouchet told investigators that one of his aggressors said, "You're going to die, faggot." The government suspended Noel Mamere, a figurehead in France's Green movement, from his post as a town mayor for a month after he presided over France's first gay marriage on June 5. A court in Bordeaux in the southwest later annulled the union of Bertrand Charpentier and Stephane Chapin--a ruling the couple has vowed to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights. "Marriage is great! I recommend it to everyone," Charpentier said after the July ruling. But President Jacques Chirac and his popular finance minister and would-be successor Nicolas Sarkozy are among those who have spoken against gay marriage--even though a poll earlier this year showed that a majority supports such unions.

Pink says it will take part in the debate on homosexuality and other topics but not does plan to be militant. The channel launches October 25 on cable and satellite. Subscription will cost $11 a month.
Britain already has two channels on the Sky Digital platform--GayDate TV, a teleshopping channel targeting the gay community, and GayTV, a late-night soft-core porn channel. And Sweden has gay-friendly programming. But Pink is the first nationally broadcast gay channel of its kind, said its founder and president, Pascal Houzelot. Pink is aiming for at least 180,000 subscribers. Houzelot said he expects half the audience will be in the Paris region. "Pink is coming at the right moment," he said. "There's an evident change in mentalities. We've seen society changed. We've seen the law change.... In France, we can clearly say that gays have gone from the era of tolerance to the era of legality, which simply means equality."

Aside from daily doses of Wonder Woman and Japanese anime cartoons, Pink plans to broadcast movies, documentaries, music programs, experimental video, and series including Queer as Folk. There'll be debates Mondays on homophobia, gay unions, gay parenthood, and other topics; a chat show Thursdays; and X-rated films four nights a week after midnight in which the actors will wear condoms. Pink's sports presenter, Brigitte Boreale, used to be a he but now prefers the term "transgender." She wore black high heels and a miniskirt to Tuesday's launch and plans to cover the often macho world of sports "with an angle of attack that's totally different." She's also keen on marginal sports like, yes, underwater hockey. "It's totally mad," she said. Houzelot said about 50% of programming will be devoted to subjects "of direct interest to or consecrated to gay guys and girls." Boreale added, "Perhaps we'll set ourselves apart in the way we tackle subjects and the subjects that we tackle. Clearly, it will address itself in the first instance to gays but is much larger than that and will, I hope, seduce a diversified public." (AP)

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