The idea for 24-hour entertainment for GLBT people isn't new. Canada's
PrideVision airs 24-hour TV entertainment on their cable channel North of the border. GayBC was an all-day Internet talk and music radio station for queers, and now Sirius Satellite Radio announced the addition of 'OutQ,' a 24/7 station airing live talk radio by and for gays and lesbians for subscribers of Sirius Satellite Radio.
As a host of a weekly national gay radio show myself, and former host of LesBiGay Radio (now Windy City Radio) in Chicago, I'm all for more media targeting GLBT people. But America's not ready to support an All Gay, All Day (AGAD) anything.
PrideVision made a valiant (and expensive) effort to break into the American market with their AGAD and the result was a company that was forced to lay off most of its employees and dump its efforts to come to America.
I normally don't make sweeping generalizations, but I'm going to. Lots of gay folks are cheap and closeted (not that there's anything wrong with that). Those two traits together make it nearly impossible for any business that requires high volumes of gay customers to survive (except porn). Not enough people are out enough or interested enough in gay issues to drop more than $100 for equipment and $12.95 each month for the privilege of hearing gay voices.
For those who will spend their hard-earned cash on subscription radio, there's no shortage of talent at OutQ. Greg McMullen is a host and the channel's program manager. McMullen was the founder of the failed GayBC.com radio network. Former LesBiGay Radio talent 'Harrison' is also on board with the Human Rights Campaign's Wayne Besen and former Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation media manager Romaine Patterson. Gay activist Michelangelo Signorile rounds out the lineup.
'Harrison on the Edge' is perhaps the program that will appeal most to non-gays. Think of a more polished Howard Stern or the Jerky Boys. But much of the remaining programming is NPR on steroids. And NPR, the only national liberal radio, survives on foundation grants, tax dollars, corporate and listener support.
Minority-focused television channels like BET ('Black Entertainment Television') and Lifetime ('Television for Women') remain successful for two big reasons. First, they appeal to viewers outside of their target minority audiences. Second, corporations with deep pockets and deeper roots in the entertainment industry own them. CBS/Viacom owns BET (and MTV and Nickleodeon and VH1 and Showtime and TNN … You get the idea). Disney/ABC owns Lifetime.
The for-profit Sirius will have to rely heavily on listener support and eventually advertising revenue. They currently claim over 30,000 subscribers to their 100+ channel satellite network. Unfortunately, 30,000 listeners glued to the radio 24 hours each day wouldn't be enough to support even a local radio station. XM Satellite Radio, the competition that arrived 10 months earlier, boasts 500,000 listeners and still industry analysts question XM's viability.
OutQ is the first channel programmed by Sirius itself. The network, occupying 50,000 square feet of studio space in high-priced Rockefeller Center in Manhattan, says they've been planning this station for over a year—beginning at a time when their stock prices were five times what they are today. Forbes reported last week that 'Bondholders and other lenders to Sirius Satellite Radio were asked to swap $700 million of debt for 62% of the outfit's near-worthless equity,' or face the company filing for bankruptcy protection.
Ignoring market realities, there's something to be said for moderation. While NPR isn't AGAD, you will hear gay-friendly chatter most of the time. It's hard to find a mainstream movie or television show today without a gay character or a gay producer or actor. Programming to and about the GLBT community does exist in moderation. Every week you'll see a gay story line on some mainstream drama, sitcom, or news magazine. If we're looking for acceptance, that's the way to get it.
When you're hungry for all-gay programming, there are certainly outlets. Get a daily news email from Planet Out. Get your local fix each weekend from Windy City Radio and tune in to other gay shows when the feeling hits you. AGAD radio or TV may be a sustained reality in America some day, but do we need it or want it?