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All-gay television.

How do gay and lesbian film and video makers overcome the political and regulatory obstacles that prevent their work from reaching television audiences without network filtering? Start an alternative network.

Last year, former advertising director David Surber co-founded Network Q, a Las Vegas-based company dedicated to commissioning, producing, and delivering gay and lesbian programming directly to subscribers through a monthly videotape magazine. "By having home videos as the delivery vehicle, Network Q sidesteps all the censorship issues and local prejudices you come across" when dealing with broadcasters, says Surber, who serves as the network's on-air host. Direct access, he notes, allows the viewers "an unfiltered portrait of the community" that originates with its members.

For many of the filmmakers contributing to the network, says Surber, "it's the first time they have been paid to do what they do, and it's for a gay and lesbian audience. So there's economic empowerment. And we're helping to provide an audience to people who didn't have that before, outside of festivals," which provide important screening opportunities but little financial compensation.

In addition to providing entertainment and an outlet for the work of gay and lesbian artists, Suber says, Network Q enables subscribers living in more rural areas to hook into events and information previously accessible only to people living in cities with large gay and lesbian populations.

For $20 a month, network subscribers receive two hours of news, features, and entertainment programming. Supported entirely by subscription, Network Q airs commercials that advertise community support services. Regular segments, focusing on different cities each month, include profiles of openly gay activists and artists, travel spots, book reviews, film clips, and theatrical venues. A recent issue included coverage of "the largest queer cinema event in the world" - the Seventeenth Annual San Francisco Lesbian and Gay Film Festival; reporting on the Gay Travel Expo; bits from comedian Marilyn Pittman's hilarious routine at a San Francisco nightclub, and interviews with Michelangelo Signorile (controversial author of Out in America), Lenny Broberg (1992 Mr. International Leather), and Canadian filmmakers Lynne Fernie and Aerlyn Weissman (creators of Forbidden Love, a documentary on lesbian life in the 1950s and 1960s).

Political events are also regularly featured, allowing subscribers in various regions to observe the scope of gay and lesbian activism. "The point is to help hold the community together," says Surber, noting that the network has subscribers in all fifty states and a dozen foreign countries. Over the past year, Network Q correspondents have reported on New York's St. Patrick's Day Parade controversy, the fight against antigay measures in Oregon and Colorado, and the military ban against gays. "The activism happening on the grass-roots level is really important to our whole civil-rights agenda," says Surber. Prior to the March on Washington last spring, Network Q literally crossed the country - in a motor home - to document local organizing for the event. "We plowed from one end of the country to the other in ten days," Surber says, featuring preparations in eleven different cities.

Along the way, he adds, he met lots of subscribers, who have been encouraged to provide input via surveys, mailed along with their monthly cassettes. "They're not shy about telling us what needs to be done," says Surber. "But more often than not, they'll say: |I really appreciate what you're doing.'" And some tell how they've used the cassettes to forge links with people outside of the community. Surber says he gets letters every month from subscribers who have shared the programming with straight co-workers, school colleagues, and family members, for whom the network's unmediated portrait of gay men and lesbians is truly news.
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Copyright 1993, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Network Q monthly videocassette magazine
Author:Metz, Holly
Publication:The Progressive
Date:Oct 1, 1993
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