For years, members of Toronto’s gay community listened to mainstream stations with no way of relating to the on-air personalities. Then came Proud FM.
The station markets itself as the first commercial radio station targeting the gay, lesbian bi-sexual and trans-gendered, (GLBT) community on a 24-hour basis.
Proud went on air on April 16. The station, which has been in the making for the past decade, is hoping to fill the void left by other commercial radio stations. Conor O Brien, a homosexual male, is excited about the new voice. O Brien says a station like Proud is what the gay community has been waiting for.
“The gay world is completely different from the straight world,” he said. “If straight people set it up, the kind of misconceptions that they have about gay people will come out.”
Sean Moreman, News Director at Proud FM, says programming will include issues that will give the community what it has been deprived of over the years.
“When the idea first emerged for an LGBT radio station 10 years ago, there was overwhelming support and demand from the community,” he said. “Up until that
point, there had been no representation of our community in the media, unless it was as comic relief in sit-coms.”
He said when the license was awarded in 2006, the demand for a station of its kind was still there. According to him, media trends surrounding LGBT issues had not really changed over the last decade.
O Brien also believes that gays have been poorly represented in the media. “If you watch a straight show that has a gay character, that person is usually over the top and flamboyant.”
Critics say that other stations do not go around proclaiming their heterosexuality, and questioned why Proud FM felt the need to do so.
A Proud FM spokesman said as long as the majority of people are straight, there will be an assumption that everyone and everything is straight and that it is only fair for Proud FM to express its personality.
“Anyone who suggests we should be quiet about who and what we are has another agenda, I’m sure,” Moreman said.
The station promises music that will evoke emotions and personalities that will touch on topics that are of relevance to the community and that are not covered in other mainstream media.
For a station that markets itself to the gay community, it could be assumed presenters and hosts will be gay. O Brian says that for Proud FM to be taken seriously, it is important to have gay presenters that members of the community can identity with.
“You can have straight hosts but there would need to be at least one gay person or else nobody would relate to that,” he said. Proud has a blend of both straight and gay hosts.
However, it will not be all music, as listeners will be fed daily news. Moreman describes it as ‘a blend of mainstream and gay-content news.’
“Our policy is always to lead with a gay-related story because that is news that no one else will cover,” he said.
“That said, we have no intention of avoiding topics of general interest and will cover what is happening in the world as well.”