First Gay and Lesbian Television Network Is Launched in Canada Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

In September of 2001, Canada’s PrideVision TV, the world’s first GLBT television network to broadcast around the clock, began broadcasting to subscribers on digital cable.

Summary of Event

The social, political, and media climate of the late 1990’s made the beginning of the twenty-first century a perfect time to explore the chance to launch a queer television network. The idea had been raised by major networks as well as independent players in the United States for years, but had never matured into a viable media option. Because of decreased arts funding and the election of a conservative Republican president (George W. Bush) in 2000, the social and political landscape in the United States did not seem poised to embrace such a new and controversial media presence. In Canada, however, the moment seemed to have arrived. After receiving its license to operate from the Canadian Radio-Television Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) in November of 2000, PrideVision TV ran its first broadcast on September 7, 2001. [kw]First Gay and Lesbian Television Network Is Launched in Canada (Sept. 7, 2001) [kw]Gay and Lesbian Television Network Is Launched in Canada, First (Sept. 7, 2001) [kw]Lesbian Television Network Is Launched in Canada, First Gay and (Sept. 7, 2001) [kw]Television Network Is Launched in Canada, First Gay and Lesbian (Sept. 7, 2001) [kw]Canada, First Gay and Lesbian Television Network Is Launched in (Sept. 7, 2001) Canada;GLBT television in Television;first GLBT network[GLBT network] PrideVision TV, Canada Media;PrideVision TV, Canada [c]Cultural and intellectual history;Sept. 7, 2001: First Gay and Lesbian Television Network Is Launched in Canada[2600] [c]Arts;Sept. 7, 2001: First Gay and Lesbian Television Network Is Launched in Canada[2600] [c]Economics;Sept. 7, 2001: First Gay and Lesbian Television Network Is Launched in Canada[2600]

Policymakers in Canada around this time had been fully engaged in the debate on same-gender marriage, with more than half of the Canadian population supporting the legalization of marriage for lesbians and gays. Ontario began issuing marriage licenses to same-gender couples. Winnipeg had elected an out gay mayor. The leader of the national Progressive Conservative Party, Joe Clark, served as grand marshall of the Gay Pride Parade in Calgary, the city widely identified as Canada’s most conservative. In the midst of all this change, Canada was quickly becoming an international leader in equal rights for sexual minorities.

Public interest in issues concerning sexuality helped make the case for the launch of a GLBT network in the new digital television roll out. With the success of various television shows featuring gay and lesbian hosts and characters, it seemed timely and appropriate to pursue a larger, more sustained presence on television, and with the proliferation of specialty channels offered by digital television, the idea of creating a niche-market TV station that would attract the subscription dollars of a sizeable queer population in Canada seemed more plausible than ever.

The producers of PrideVision TV capitalized on the GLBT market, dedicating itself to airing programs that would represent all facets of the Canadian queer community and the global community as well. PrideVision’s programming schedule included drama, comedy, cooking, gardening, fitness, travel, erotica, and dating shows. They also had proposed a full slate of documentaries, reality shows, and news programs. In keeping with this ambitious agenda, PrideVision guaranteed that the programming on the network would provide, more than ever before, positive coverage of gay and lesbian issues, from a documentary line of “PrideVisionairies” featuring biographies of influential GLBT figures throughout history, to weekly news programming from the country’s various queer communities. The word “celebration” featured heavily in much of PrideVision’s promotional materials. Indeed, the bulk of the programming seems to have been directly and explicitly committed to celebrating all aspects of gay and lesbian life—the social, the sexual, the political, the historical, and the entertaining.

Significance

The impact of PrideVision TV was felt in both the media and political landscapes in Canada and internationally. Although many expected the network to falter early, citing its high price tag for digital subscribers and perceived limited audience, the network continued programming as PrideVision until March, 2005, when it was renamed OUTtv. OUTtv continues PrideVision’s legacy as the first twenty-four-hour GLBT network in the world. PrideVision now operates, with a new name, as a premium-pay gay erotica channel on digital cable.

The introduction of PrideVision had an obvious impact upon the Canadian queer community, who, for the first time, had a television station dedicated exclusively to queer experience. However, the general population was impacted as well. The launch of the network received a great deal of mainstream media attention, culminating in a widely publicized lawsuit against western Canada’s major cable company, Shaw Communications. During the free preview period for PrideVision, Shaw implemented a small but significant roadblock, which forced viewers to incur a one-cent charge and “approve” their access to the network at every single program change. Shaw attempted to defend itself with the claim that they were protecting the sensitivities of their subscribers, but the CRTC ultimately ruled in favor of PrideVision, indicating that the “additional steps required to sample PrideVision will act as a strong disincentive for subscribers to view the service,” a disincentive that contravened the commission’s regulations against giving undue preference to any person or network.

The CRTC ruling was integral to gay and lesbian activist groups across Canada, but it also drew a great deal of attention from mainstream Canadian news media, the kind of publicity that a small network just cannot buy. PrideVision—a stand-alone, specialty, niche-market, premium-pay digital network—had been featured on the cover of major publications around the country. The network’s name was heard and spoken by people who would likely never have regarded the station in the first place, let alone subscribed to it.

Suddenly, though, PrideVision and its success or failure became a major issue for every liberal in the country concerned about media censorship. In many ways, Shaw’s assumptions about the tolerance levels of their paying customers exposed attitudes that many Canadians were unwilling to accept as representative of their own views. The public attention to the battle between PrideVision and Shaw Communications ceased to be, in public perception, a gay and lesbian rights issue only; rather, it became a human rights issue. Canada;GLBT television in Television;first GLBT network[GLBT network] PrideVision TV, Canada Media;PrideVision TV, Canada

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Capsuto, Steven. Alternate Channels: The Uncensored Story of Gay and Lesbian Images on Radio and Television, 1930’s to the Present. New York: Ballantine Books, 2000.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Johnson, Phylis, and Michael C. Keith. Queer Airwaves: The Story of Gay and Lesbian Broadcasting. Armonk, N.Y.: M.E. Sharpe, 2001.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Keller, James R., and Leslie Stratyner, eds. The New Queer Aesthetic on Television: Essays on Recent Programming. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 2006.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Kryhul, Angela. “Pridevision’s Tough Sell.” Marketing Magazine 106, no. 41 (October 15, 2001): 21.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Tropiano, Stephen. The Prime Time Closet: A History of Gays and Lesbians on TV. New York: Applause Theatre & Cinema Books, 2002.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Vilanch, Bruce. “A Channel of Our Own.” The Advocate, April 29, 2003, 52.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Wockner, Rex. “Lack of Vision Cited for Pridevision’s Troubles.” Gay Life 25, no. 13 (March 7, 2003): 21.

1930’s-1960’s: Hollywood Bans “Sexual Perversion” in Films

March 7, 1967: CBS Airs CBS Reports: The Homosexuals

October 31, 1969: TIME Magazine Issues “The Homosexual in America”

1979-1981: First Gay British Television Series Airs

June 5 and July 3, 1981: Reports of Rare Diseases Mark Beginning of AIDS Epidemic

1985: GLAAD Begins Monitoring Media Coverage of Gays and Lesbians

1985: Lesbian Film Desert Hearts Is Released

July 25, 1985: Actor Hudson Announces He Has AIDS

1988: Macho Dancer Is Released in the Philippines

1992-2002: Celebrity Lesbians Come Out

March 21, 2000: Hollywood Awards Transgender Portrayals in Film

March 5, 2006: Brokeback Mountain, Capote, and Transamerica Receive Oscars

Categories: History Content