Ciyril Hanouna
French TV host and producer Cyril Hanouna poses in Paris on June 08, 2016. Joel Saget

The presenter of a popular primetime TV show in France is under fire after he made what his critics say was a humiliating and homophobic prank call to young gay men live on air.

Cyril Hanouna, presenter of Touche Pas A Mon Poste [Don't Touch My TV set], "pranked" a young homosexual man live on air for "jokes". After putting out an ad on an online dating site for gay men, he answered calls in a feminine voice and with stereotypical "gay" behaviour.

In a video clip that has been widely shared on Twitter, Hanouna makes lewd comments to one of the callers to the enjoyment of his team. He flirts with the man while indicating to his audience of 1.7 million people that everything in reply is ridiculous and inappropriate.

Many viewers have reported the segment to the CSA, the body in charge of regulating TV content in France (the equivalent of Ofcom). Some argued the prank was not only unfunny but dangerous because the young men answering ads are already the targets of homophobic and violent assaults.

On Twitter, one critic wrote: "Nice little prank call, this one. It doesn't remind me at all of the crippling fear of a date that has a fake gay profile and actually wants to kill us."

Another told the show host: "If one of your fans does this or worse, you'll be responsible."

The French association for the protection of gay people, SOS Homophobie, also filed a complaint against Touche Pas A Mon Poste.

The president of the association, Joël Deumier, said this segment was "scandalous, shameful and homophobic," and that Hanouna had been caught making fun of homosexuality many times before. "When you let people get away with such behaviour, you trivialise homophobic discourse" he told the Huffington Post.

In December 2016, a study by an association of French LGBT journalists reported that in the course of only one month, the show had referenced homosexuality 42 times, "often in order to demean it".

In 27 instances, Hanouna was accused of repeatedly abusing one of his co-anchors, Matthieu Delormeau, who is gay, in what he also said were "pranks".

Several viewers called him out for bullying. At the time, Hanouna said he was only joking: "it's just a joke, can't we have a bit of fun any more?"

In an interview the morning after the latest segment aired, Cyril Hanouna hit back at his critics: "Homophobia is everything I've been fighting against for years, just like xenophobia, racism and misogyny. And today being called homophobic makes me feel really sad."