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Evolution, revolution, and the construction of a gay cable channel
Unformatted Document Text:  7 cost. It also offers content GLBT viewers can’t get elsewhere, including independent films that have a limited theater run and don’t show up in local video stores (or that people don’t want to be seen renting there). It thus offers a great deal more privacy than does receiving The Advocate by mail, since the magazine’s opaque envelopes can easily rip or be opened by curious mail deliverers. (On the other hand, some gay cable subscribers may be anxious that their subscription would become public knowledge, or that their names would be sold to gay direct mail lists.) The channel also potentially amasses a much larger audience than the gay print media and online services combined can claim; the economies of scale offered by larger audiences would mean funds available for more—and, ideally, diverse—original programming, including news. Yet it is unwise to overinvest in commercial media for GLBT civil rights progress. While increased representations of gays and lesbians since 1994 have helped to make life easier for a great many GLBT people, there is a peculiar disconnect between increased cultural tolerance and legislative progress: sodomy, for example, is still an arrestable offence in 13 states. Many ideological battles are fought in media, but we cannot forget that whatever the funding structure, gay cable will be a commercial system. Matt Farber explained that his motivation for developing the gay cable channel was twofold: the true inspiration was to do something that’s good and that would be embraced by the gay and lesbian community and help us move our civil rights forward by our mere existence; and obviously, given that we are Viacom, to do something that’s good for business so we can continue to do something that’s good for the audience. No matter how much individual producers invest their political and personal commitments in the project, if it is not profitable, it won’t run. As GLAAD’s recent report suggests, with the precipitous drop in primetime GLBT characters from 20 the previous year to only 7 characters in

Authors: Sender, Katherine.
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cost. It also offers content GLBT viewers can’t get elsewhere, including independent films that
have a limited theater run and don’t show up in local video stores (or that people don’t want to
be seen renting there). It thus offers a great deal more privacy than does receiving The Advocate
by mail, since the magazine’s opaque envelopes can easily rip or be opened by curious mail
deliverers. (On the other hand, some gay cable subscribers may be anxious that their subscription
would become public knowledge, or that their names would be sold to gay direct mail lists.) The
channel also potentially amasses a much larger audience than the gay print media and online
services combined can claim; the economies of scale offered by larger audiences would mean
funds available for more—and, ideally, diverse—original programming, including news.
Yet it is unwise to overinvest in commercial media for GLBT civil rights progress. While
increased representations of gays and lesbians since 1994 have helped to make life easier for a
great many GLBT people, there is a peculiar disconnect between increased cultural tolerance and
legislative progress: sodomy, for example, is still an arrestable offence in 13 states. Many
ideological battles are fought in media, but we cannot forget that whatever the funding structure,
gay cable will be a commercial system. Matt Farber explained that his motivation for developing
the gay cable channel was twofold:
the true inspiration was to do something that’s good and that would be embraced by the
gay and lesbian community and help us move our civil rights forward by our mere
existence; and obviously, given that we are Viacom, to do something that’s good for
business so we can continue to do something that’s good for the audience.
No matter how much individual producers invest their political and personal commitments in the
project, if it is not profitable, it won’t run. As GLAAD’s recent report suggests, with the
precipitous drop in primetime GLBT characters from 20 the previous year to only 7 characters in


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