Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Ruling on TV Shields Young High Court Backs Full Scrambling of Risque Shows

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Ruling on TV Shields Young High Court Backs Full Scrambling of Risque Shows

Article excerpt

The Supreme Court on Monday let the government begin enforcing a law intended to shield children from sex-oriented cable TV networks that are only partly "scrambled" for nonsubscribers.

The justices rejected an effort by Playboy Television and other such networks to bar the law's enforcement while they challenge it in court.

The unanimous decision, which upheld a lower court ruling, was not accompanied by an opinion spelling out the justices' reasons. Also Monday, the court agreed to study a case in which an $11.3 million award against General Motors was thrown out because a former GM employee was allowed to testify about a 1990 truck fire that killed a woman from Missouri. In the cable TV case, the networks say the law, part of the 1996 Commu nications Decency Act, violates their free-speech rights. Cable TV customers can pay extra to subscribe to sex-oriented networks such as Playboy Television or Spice Entertainment. Cable operators block or scramble such channels for customers who don't subscribe. But some people complained that such scrambling often is imperfect and that nonsubscribers' children still can see or hear portrayals of sexual activity on those channels. The law requires sex-oriented networks to be fully scrambled or blocked for all nonsubscribers; if not, a network may show "indecent" programs only at night, even to paying subscribers. Such programs could be shown between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. The law was challenged by Playboy Entertainment, which also owns AdulTVision, and by Spice Entertainment, which also owns the Adam & Eve network. The companies said that full scrambling can be prohibitively expensive. They said that major cable companies have announced they will choose the second option and let sex-oriented networks show explicit programs only at night. The owners of Playboy TV and Spice said the law violates their free-speech right to show sexually explicit programs to adult subscribers during the day. Customers who want a specific channel fully blocked can invoke another part of last year's law that requires cable operators to do so - on request, the appeal said. A three-judge federal court in Delaware refused to grant a preliminary order to halt enforcement of the law, pending a trial. …

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