MTV, the television company that revolutionised American popular culture, started a channel for gay people yesterday.
The channel was immediately attacked by Christian groups, who called it an "assault" on the innocence of children. But advertisers were eager to tap into an audience with huge potential buying power.
The channel, called Logo, will be the first gay channel supplied to US homes that have not specifically asked for it, reaching 13m potential viewers. America's other two gay channels, Here! and Q Television, are available only on subscription. In the 1980s, when it was impossible to find alternative music on mainstream television networks, the cry of American teenagers was: "I want my MTV."
Pundits have already come up with an unofficial slogan for the new channel: "I want my gay TV."
Logo's inaugural telecast, aired last night on the East Coast before America's long Independence Day weekend, was entitled 'The Evolution Will Be Televised'. Scheduled programming includes news features about gay rugby and gay rodeo, plus gay-themed Hollywood films, including 'Mulholland Drive' and 'Six Degrees of Separation'. Another show, 'Curl Girls', will focus on the lives of lesbians with high-powered careers. "The criterion is to feature gay characters in primary or leading roles and not in the gimmicky or usual collection of depressed characters," said David Bittler, vice-president of communication for MTV Networks, which has been working on a 24-hour gay channel for two years.
Advertisers have so far showed little squeamishness about Logo's content, with Motorola, Miller Lite and Subaru all paying for commercial airtime on the channel. Companies are eager to capitalise on the buying power of gays and lesbians, estimated at $600bn (?502bn) a year by one US marketing firm. Religious groups are not so happy. Janice Crouse, of Concerned Women for America, said: "Logo is another assault on our children's innocence. Gay activism, solidly established in our schools, is now spreading right into the nation's living rooms."
She added that corporate advertisers were giving a "stamp of approval on a lifestyle that . . . devastates lives by the diseases it inflicts".
Damon Romine, of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, countered that Logo had "the potential to reach millions of television viewers with images and stories that can play a vital role in broadening understanding of our lives, our families and our relationships." (©The Times, London)