Vancouver
3 min

PrideVision pulls its porn

But network's new owner swears it won't be gay-lite

PORN-FREE GAY TV. Bill Craig, new owner of PrideVision, says he's going to pull the porn off his channel, and start a new channel for all-gay porn. Craig is also going to pressure cable companies to add PrideVision to their channel bundles. Credit: Xtra West files

Can a gay channel be a gay channel if it doesn’t carry any porn? Bill Craig seems to think so. Craig recently bought PrideVision, Canada’s first and only all-gay TV station, and he has big plans for his new baby-they just don’t involve any hardcore sex.



“Sex is part of our definition of who we are,” he says, “but that doesn’t mean that all gay people are preoccupied with sex.”



Picking the right programs for PrideVision can be a challenge, Craig confides, as he positions himself to serve the broadest possible community of queers. It’s kind of like running a small-town radio station where you play one type of music in the morning for mom, another in the afternoon for dad and rock and roll at night for junior. “How do you try to be all things to all people?” he asks.



His answer: cut the porn. Then move it to a second all-porn channel, just like the one Craig is preparing to unveil in October.



This should suit everybody, he suggests. Gay viewers won’t lose their porn, they’ll just have to subscribe to a second gay channel. Meanwhile, those viewers who are less keen on watching hardcore sex can breathe a sigh of relief when it disappears from their PrideVision screens.



The PrideVision team (such as it is; the station cut its original 20-plus staff down to three before Craig came on board last December) has apparently received some complaints about its porn programming since its launch in 2001. “We’re not homogenous” within the gay community, Craig points out. “There are people who don’t mind that stuff in their living rooms” and others who do.



“For example, my partner and I. Jaime’s no prude,” Craig begins, but he didn’t want PrideVision in the house at first because he didn’t want their then-17-year-old son to see the porn.



Fast-forward three years and Craig is set to cater to what he hopes is the majority of gays. “I’ve run across many asexual gays,” he notes, people who identify with the gay community but aren’t so sexual. They’ll feel more comfortable with this new and improved PrideVision-and their voices are seldom heard in the community.



“This is a matter of taste,” he says. “We’re proposing to give more of everything to everybody.” Kind of like BBC1 and BBC2, he smiles; only here it will be channel one for gay porn, and channel two for the main elements of gay culture and community.



But don’t look at this as PrideVision pulling its porn off the air, he says. Look at it as an increase in the amount of gay porn that will soon be available on TV overall. “So people who want that stuff can get it 24 hours a day. But PrideVision would become a more widely distributed service.”



Of course, PrideVision won’t be totally sex-free, either, he hastens to point out.



“This is not to shy away from sexuality,” he assures me. “We’re not de-emphasizing the sexuality of PrideVision.” Queer as Folk will continue to run uncut and talk shows will continue to discuss sex in frank and explicit terms. “It’s the erotic material where you go into the next level of sexual activity that’s purely intended for sexual arousal” that will get the boot to the porn-only channel.



“Yes, we’ll take the erotica off late-night but we’re not going to go gay-lite,” he continues, glancing askance at Logo, his likely competitor scheduled for launch next February by the US company Viacom. Logo is planning to go with the “safe gay stuff” like Will & Grace that non-gays find inoffensive, Craig says. Not PrideVision. “We’re not going to compromise our message,” he promises.



Moreover, he is determined to bring his message to the masses. His first priority: get the cable companies to add PrideVision to their packages-now. PrideVision made headlines when it was first launched because most cable companies, including Alberta-headquartered Shaw Communications, balked at the idea of adding a gay channel to their channel bundles.



The Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) promptly ordered the companies to treat PrideVision equally (porn content and all) for the duration of their free trial periods. After that, it said, the gay channel and the cable companies could negotiate their own deals for long-term carriage.



Now, Craig says, those negotiations left PrideVision hurting. His predecessors didn’t push hard enough for inclusion and settled for being sold as a stand-alone, he explains. (So while channels such as Discovery get easy access to households across Canada on the coattails of their bundle buddies, PrideVision has to make its way in the cable world alone, hoping to entice viewers to shell out an extra $6-$8 a month specifically-and solely-for the gay channel.)



But that’s about to change, Craig promises, as he prepares for yet another meeting with yet another cable company. “We’ve bought this channel and we’re going to distribute it and we’re going to be treated fairly and equitably,” he says. “I’m tired of apologizing for being gay in the broadcasting community.”



Craig is hoping to add PrideVision to cable packages across the country by Oct 1-the same day he hopes to launch his separate porn channel.