MTV To Launch Gay Lesbian Cable Network
Diana Ming Yin


Whether you like them or hate them, MTV Networks and VIACOM are now heavily involved in the process of launching a brand-new gay cable TV network, which they have officially named “LOGO.” Currently set to launch in 14 million cable homes on February 17th, 2005, in major cities across the United States, the new network promises to “reflect the diversity of the LGBT experience.” Its slogan, “Different Together,” is meant to represent “how the LGBT community is amazingly diverse, but joined by similar points of view, experiences and sensibilities.” With a certain amount of vagueness, MTV/VIACOM had this to say about why they chose “LOGO” (an acronym for nothing in particular) for the title of their new network: “‘LOGO’ appeals to a broad range of viewers and signifies the many meanings of identity… The name is not an obvious pun or play on words; it's not clichëd or dated as could have easily been by using well known symbols.”

So far, no details have been released about the specific programs that are being acquired and produced for the network. What we do know is that a primary concern of the network's operators is to make the channel accessible and "comfortable" for straight people. Tom Freston, the chairman and CEO of MTV Networks, says: "This is not a network about sex and sexuality. There will be talk shows and documentaries. A lot of the fare here straight people will find interesting." In its initial phase, the network will feature 75% acquired/licensed programming and 25% original series and specials. Among the films that have been acquired by the network so far are films like Gods and Monsters, an Oscar-winning film starring Ian McKlellen who plays a gay Hollywood director, and a classic black comedy called What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? that stars Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. As the network grows, so will original programming, which will be announced at the TV Critics Association in July.

On the moral front, Freston insists there is nothing indecent or morally apprehensible about the new network, saying: "We're not using profanity, we're not using sex. This is going to be mainstream programming that you see everywhere else, except for the fact that it's targeted to the gay and lesbian community." In fact, LOGO's operators have presented the network as so mild that it has received no resistance at all from advertisers. The response has been different, of course, from individuals and organizations affiliated with the Religious Right. Within an hour of hearing about LOGO's launch, the Traditional Values Coalition, with its base of 43,000 church members, began working on plans to boycott any and all of LOGO's advertisers. The organization's chairman, Rev. Louis Sheldon has said: "[LOGO] doesn't improve television. It only continues to offer moral anarchy for a very seriously dysfunctional lifestyle."
Peter Sprigg, senior director of policy studies at the Family Research Council in Washington, insists that the launching of the gay and lesbian cable network "will only add pressure to the call for an unbundling of cable TV so people can purchase what they want." Adding, "I'm certain that a lot of families don't want their kids to have access to this channel."

In the grand scheme of things, however, the moral opposition that LOGO faces might only be a small problem, with the timing of the new network’s release being so economically strategic. The only network similar to LOGO that exists right now is Here! TV, a paid service available only on digital satellite television that poses little threat to LOGO, which will be available on basic cable to a larger range of audiences. Paul Colichman, president of Here TV, has also dispelled myths that LOGO will be a harsh competitor, saying: "We're very excited because it gives us another buyer for our old programming." Possibly as a result of this past year’s highly-publicized and hugely controversial political battles surrounding gay and lesbian rights, there seems to be an upsurge of pride, and thus market consumption, within queer communities. In addition, there is greater visibility now more than ever of gay lifestyles and identities-- albeit predominantly white and middle class-- within popular culture that has opened up a previously untapped market that is estimated at 485 billion dollars (according to MarketResearch.com). As Forbes magazine says: “Logo…aims to take advantage of gay purchasing power. With an estimated 15 million gay adults now in the United States--and their disposable income estimated in the hundreds of billions of dollars--advertisers like…American Airlines, IBM… and Anheuser-Busch…have all clamored to grab a hold of what's been called a ‘dream market’ of consumers.” MTV/VIACOM itself has said: “…we think we now have the right positioning, branding and people in place to make this new channel work and serve the audience in the best way. Market conditions are also much more favorable today…”

And although Freston has said that LOGO "is not really about politics," but rather about entertainment, he has still expressed a hint of political intent, by saying: "Despite our nation's progress on civil rights and the growing visibility of gay people in business, society and even in television programming, what has been missing is a full-time home for this important and influential audience on television."

But whether the network will feature programs geared towards white audiences or audiences of color still remains to be seen. Knowing the incredible influence and impact that media can have on society, one can only hope that queer lives and identities are as diverse and truthful in LOGO's programming, as it is in real life. What network reps have said is that they “plan to have something for everyone.” For women, trans folk, working-class people and people of color who are often delegated to the margins in situations like this, it would certainly be worth watching closely how the network develops in terms of the advertising it chooses to air, the writers and actors they choose to hire and the original programming it chooses to produce. One can only hope that when they say “everyone,” they mean everyone… or something close to it.


To visit the official LOGO website, please visit: http://www.logo-tv.com/
To read the official Viacom press release, please visit: http://www.viacom.com/press.tin?ixPressRelease=80304155

June 2004 - Exoticize My Fist!