Are you ready to spend some “Frisky Fridays” and “Steamy Saturdays” watching gay and lesbian erotica on television? Better yet, do you want your kids to have access to such classic films as Hey Sailor, Hey Sister, the plot of which is described on the PrideVision TV website as: “The story of a naval officer who, coming to port with just her duffel bag and leather chaps, goes looking for adventure – and finds it” Well, the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission thinks you want to see PrideVision TV, and recently forced Shaw Cable to offer the gay-themed channel as part of its free three-month preview package.
In a September letter to the CRTC, Shaw chief executive Jim Shaw said his company’s initial decision was based on the “overwhelming expressions of concern from our customers” about the sexually explicit nature of PrideVision TV. Mr. Shaw added that Shaw could turn the channel on for anyone who wanted it, and could prove his age by providing a valid credit card number. A reasonable compromise? Gay activists did not think so, and argued that in order to get PrideVision, a cable subscriber had to perform a complicated change to his system, telephone Shaw, and then pay the whopping sum of one cent. Anna McKusker, the vice-president of marketing for PrideVision was unavailable for comment, but complained to the gay-oriented XTRA magazine in early October that Shaw was “singling out PrideVision and treating us differently than the other stations.” McKusker defended PrideVision by arguing its “limited erotic content meets all applicable standards,” and “there is more explicit content elsewhere.” Indeed, Shaw also carries the raunchy Sex TV, and Showcase, which broadcasts programming such as Oz, The Red Shoe Diaries, and Queer as Folk.
To add to Shaw’s troubles, gay Vancouverite Peter Cook has launched a human rights complaint against the company over PrideVision. Mr. Cook is demanding that Shaw offer the channel free of charge for three months, apologize for its handling of the issue, and include PrideVision in its advertising.
Jay Barwell of Focus on the Family Canada agrees with McKusker’s argument that other channels also broadcast explicit material, but does not think that justifies the CRTC’s decision. “Sin is sin,” says Barwell. “Seeing young heterosexuals having sex on television is just as wrong as homosexual sex on TV.” He adds that his real concern is the inclusion of sexually explicit programming in prime viewing hours, when children and impressionable teenagers might be watching. “Prime time is still family time,” he says. “This is exposing kids to stuff they don’t need to be exposed to. This decision makes it a whole lot harder for parents to do their jobs.”
Interestingly, while social conservatives are understandably upset by the CRTC’s dictate, it has also raised some eyebrows at the libertarian Fraser Institute. Fred McMahon, the Institute’s social affairs director calls himself a “social liberal,” but adds, “I don’t like this much at all. The last thing the government should be doing is selecting which views are acceptable and which views are not. Any government interference in the marketplace of ideas lessens our liberty to some extent.”In an opinion article that has yet to be published, Real Women of Canada vice- president Gwendolyn Landolt criticizes the CRTC by writing: “A new age dawns in broadcasting, but a rusty, dated, know-it-all federal agency persists in clinging to its power.” She also notes that out of nearly 200 digital channels available dealing with topics such as books, movies, and public affairs, “only 16, including PrideVision, were selected by the CRTC for mandatory inclusion on the cable outlets.” Among the excluded channels was the highly acclaimed religious broadcaster Eternal World Television Network (EWTN).