2 min

So gay TV

Vancouver show comes to Shaw

INDEPENDENT PRODUCTION. Daniel Leipnik has started an independent half-hour gay TV show covering the Lower Mainland. It will air on the Shaw multicultural channel, Delta cable and PrideVision. Credit: Xtra West files

Daniel Leipnik is a changed man.

With Out on TV, his new, independent gay TV show, just weeks away from its first air date, Leipnik has discovered his passion for the gay community and its struggles.

“I never saw myself as a crusader of gay rights until I started developing this show,” he says. That’s when he realized how many queer youth are still getting bullied at school and kicked out by their families-even as their support centres lose government funding.

The result: Leipnik says he went from average gay guy to activist almost overnight.

“I definitely have a passion now,” he says, determined to not only support the community but bring the gay word to the masses.

Which is not to suggest that he wasn’t determined to produce an independent gay TV show from the moment he took on this project. He was. But he is the first to admit that the project began more as a business opportunity than a mission. No one else was producing a local, independent, half-hour gay TV show, he explains, so he moved in to fill the hole.

Of course, Vancouver had a half-hour gay TV show until Shaw Cable demoted Outlook TV to five-minute segments in its general news show in Sep 2001. At the time, Shaw’s regional manager hailed the change as a positive move for queer and straight viewers alike. Being integrated into the general news program will bring gay issues to a wider audience, Jay Mehr explained.

Outlook’s lead producer had his doubts. Giovanni Morello worried that the mainstream producers would refuse to air some gay material. He also wondered how many loyal gay viewers would sit through an hour of general programming just to catch a five-minute glimpse of their own reality.

Leipnik, who worked first as a reporter then as a segment producer for Outlook TV, says the show probably did lose some viewers after Shaw reformatted, but he never noticed any censorship.

But Outlook TV was never independently produced, Leipnik points out, since Shaw staff played a big role in the show’s production.

That means his new project, the independently produced Out on TV, is carving out new territory for the gay community in the broadcast world. Written, shot, edited and entirely produced by Leipnik’s staff, Out on TV will feature news that is relevant to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered communities. But don’t expect 10-second soundbytes. It’s magazine style, Leipnik says, so the stories will have more depth.

Local cable broadcasters Shaw and Delta Cable have already signed up to air the show, with a commitment to buy the first 22 episodes from Leipnik’s production company Vibrance Alive Entertainment. PrideVision will also air the show, and has kicked in some financial support, as well.

Leipnik says he didn’t have any problems convincing Shaw to buy his new gay show.

When asked why the show will air on Shaw’s second channel, the multicultural one, rather than its main community channel (cable four), Leipnik points to several factors.

First of all, channel four is full right now, he says. “All of the program is locked down so there’s no room to make any changes.”

Not so on channel 20. There was room, the broadcasters were willing and the show fits their multicultural mandate of sharing information about different cultural groups.

“It’s just a perfect fit,” Leipnik says, dismissing the idea that Shaw is relegating his gay show to their diversity sidedish.

As filming wraps up on the first eight episodes, Leipnik can barely contain his excitement. It’s about time the gay community got its own, independently produced TV show, he says.

Out on TV premieres Sat Apr 5 at 10 pm on Shaw cable 20 and Delta cable 51, and on Apr 15 at 9:30 pm on PrideVision.

As for Outlook TV, its five-minute segments will continue to air during Shaw’s newsmagazine show on cable four, Tuesdays and Fridays at 6 pm.