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Evolution, revolution, and the construction of a gay cable channel
Unformatted Document Text:  1 Evolution, revolution, and the construction of a gay cable channel 1 In January, 2002, MTV and Showtime announced a new joint project: a cable channel dedicated to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) content and audiences. 2 Following the lead of Pridevision in Canada, these Viacom subsidiaries joined forces on the project of bringing “all gays, all the time” to cable subscribers in the USA on a channel whose name and launch-date have yet to be set. What we do know is that it would be partly subscriber-based, partly advertising-supported. At a recent panel on the topic, MTV’s Mark Farber called the gay cable channel “an evolution, not a revolution.” 3 This phrase contrasts the image of a revolution— a politically motivated, violent upheaval succeeded by economic constraint—with a Darwinian ideal, where natural selection is articulated to an intrinsically fair, equilibrium-seeking free market. This model posits an inexorable march towards increasingly progressive images of GLBT people. “Evolution, not revolution” is the cousin of marketers’ oft-repeated claim that gay marketing is a matter of “business, not politics”: as a spokesperson from Naya water, “This is not a political decision to go after the gay niche. It was a business decision.” 4 Or this, from a Miller beer representative: “We market to gays and lesbians for business reasons because we want to sell our product to consumers. It doesn’t get more complicated than that.” 5 I counter, however, that it does indeed get a great deal more complicated than that. The gay cable channel is the product of neither evolution nor revolution because, paradoxically, it is both business and politics. The proposed gay media channel emerges not from a natural process but from marketers’ and media-makers’ methodical construction of the gay market, of gay audiences, of increasingly explicit gay programming, and from advertisers’ increasing willingness to advertise to gays (and, sometimes, lesbians). This paper addresses the challenges the producers of such a channel face, in terms of augmenting GLBT images in mainstream and

Authors: Sender, Katherine.
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background image
1
Evolution, revolution, and the construction of a gay cable channel
1
In January, 2002, MTV and Showtime announced a new joint project: a cable channel
dedicated to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) content and audiences.
2
Following
the lead of Pridevision in Canada, these Viacom subsidiaries joined forces on the project of
bringing “all gays, all the time” to cable subscribers in the USA on a channel whose name and
launch-date have yet to be set. What we do know is that it would be partly subscriber-based,
partly advertising-supported. At a recent panel on the topic, MTV’s Mark Farber called the gay
cable channel “an evolution, not a revolution.”
3
This phrase contrasts the image of a revolution—
a politically motivated, violent upheaval succeeded by economic constraint—with a Darwinian
ideal, where natural selection is articulated to an intrinsically fair, equilibrium-seeking free
market. This model posits an inexorable march towards increasingly progressive images of
GLBT people. “Evolution, not revolution” is the cousin of marketers’ oft-repeated claim that gay
marketing is a matter of “business, not politics”: as a spokesperson from Naya water, “This is not
a political decision to go after the gay niche. It was a business decision.”
4
Or this, from a Miller
beer representative: “We market to gays and lesbians for business reasons because we want to
sell our product to consumers. It doesn’t get more complicated than that.”
5
I counter, however, that it does indeed get a great deal more complicated than that. The
gay cable channel is the product of neither evolution nor revolution because, paradoxically, it is
both business and politics. The proposed gay media channel emerges not from a natural process
but from marketers’ and media-makers’ methodical construction of the gay market, of gay
audiences, of increasingly explicit gay programming, and from advertisers’ increasing
willingness to advertise to gays (and, sometimes, lesbians). This paper addresses the challenges
the producers of such a channel face, in terms of augmenting GLBT images in mainstream and


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