"A giant leap for television, a small step in high heels," the presenter promised, unveiling France's first gay television station, which aims to make gay culture mainstream and marks a new climate of tolerance in Roman Catholic France. Pink TV, which debuted Monday night, promises viewers a mixture of "Wonder Woman" repeats, prime-time opera, and gay and lesbian porn.
A daily cultural review will look at issues such as tourism, health, poetry and clubbing from a gay perspective, in a style that aims to be "more cozy than cheeky." Supported by France's three main commercial television networks, the cable and satellite channel benefits from a relatively new atmosphere of openness toward homosexuality in France.
Pascal Houzelot, the station's founder and president, said the country was ready for the channel. "Pink is coming at the right moment. There's been a real change in mentality. We've seen society change, we've seen the law change ... Gays in France have gone from the era of tolerance to the era of legality, which simply means equality."
The channel's creation has been met with enthusiasm in the French press. Gay rights have been hovering at the top of the French political agenda for months.
But Pink TV's backers are keen to stress it will not be a ghetto station, nor particularly militant in tone. Its target is France's 3.5 million gays and lesbians -- between 7 percent and 8 percent of the population, according to the channel's figures. But for commercial reasons it hopes to attract a large number of straight viewers to pay the 9-euro monthly subscription fee, too.
Sports will be presented by a transgender newsreader in a miniskirt, who admits a fondness for obscure sports such as underwater hockey. But the station will also offer Japanese manga cartoons, documentaries on subjects like being gay in Africa, and debates and interviews presented by one of the country's most popular broadcasters, Claire Chazal.
Pink TV will be reshowing old episodes of Channel 4's "So Graham Norton," as well as the series "Queer as Folk," "Tipping the Velvet" and "French and Saunders."
The station's financial backers hope advertisers will be eager to cash in on the power of the pink euro, but it is not clear whether their optimism is well founded. Libération reported yesterday there was a shyness on the part of large advertisers to come forward.
The only two comparable channels, Italy's Gay TV, launched in 2002, and Pridevision, established in Canada in 2001, are both struggling.
Houzelot believes that porn films broadcast after midnight four times a week will help make things work commercially. "Porn on Pink is editorially the right decision and economically necessary," he said, estimating that of the 180,000-odd expected subscribers, 100,000 would come for the porn.