I want my gay TV

But will there the airwaves still be a wasteland?

A gay TV station is one step closer to becoming reality – and the two front-runners tried hard to outdo each other in this month’s licensing hearings.

“One of the things I hope this commission will recognize and reward is that we have been doing this for several years,” says Moses Znaimer, president and CEO of the Toronto-based CHUM Ltd.

Znaimer says his company started a gay show several years ago with the Q-Files, a half-hour show on a smaller network which has grown into a full hour on the main network, City (it’s been renamed Q Television and can also be found at www.planetout.com).

“The commission’s own leadership in awarding a license for Q-Television: The Channel, will provide the platform to build on an already Canadian success story,” says QTV host and producer Irshad Manji. “This type of channel is desperately needed, especially for young people who still face the fear of coming out.

“Because we will also be interactive, those who fear watching the channel on conventional television, can view us on the Internet and maintain their privacy.”

The Canadian Radio And Television-telecommunications Commission heard pleas for a gay station in mid-August in Hull. The CRTC is expected to award 10 new digital television licenses by year’s end, from 450 applications.

The second front-runner is Pridevision from Levfam Holdings in Hamilton.

Both companies asked for a category one licence, which means guaranteed distribution among cable and satellite suppliers.

“There is a substantial enough base through our studies and focus groups that a channel dedicated to the gay and lesbian population is needed,” says John Levy, of Pridevision. “We don’t have any pre-conceived notions about what this programming should look like.

“We are going to take our cues from the community itself. We have much stronger commitments than the other applicants in terms of our financial commitment and fresh Canadian programming,” he says.

Pridevision supporters include Showcase, which broadcasts a lot of gay programming, and film distributor (and Showcase owner) Alliance Atlantis.

Both Q-Television and Pridevision promise a variety of services, including programs with gay and lesbian characters, news, sports, feature films and independent productions.

Arc-en Ciel, a bilingual service from Montreal, is also applying for a category one licence.

All three have also tried for a category two licence, joining G And L, from Montreal, and Toronto’s ALT-TV. Category two means distribution would be at the discretion of the cable and satellite suppliers. No formal presentation is made to the CRTC for this type of licence.

Hearings continue into the category one supplicants Wed, Aug 30 and through to Sep 5.

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