Mass Communication Law and Ethics

By Roy L. Moore | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 11
INDECENCY, OBSCENITY, AND PORNOGRAPHY

On the evening of March 26, 1990, satellite dish owners who tuned to Spacenet 1, transponder 18, saw the following message roll continuously on the television screen:

CUSTOMERS, WE ARE EXTREMELY SORRY. AN UNFORTUNATE CHAIN OF EVENTS HAS REMOVED AMERICAN EXXXTASY FROM THE AIR PERMANENTLY. IT IS TRULY A SAD DAY. IN CONSIDERATION, WE HAVE AUTOMATICALLY ADDED FOUR EXTRA MONTHS OF OUR EDITED ADULT CHANNEL, TUXXEDO NETWORK (GALAXY 2 CHANNEL 4) FOR EVERY MONTH REMAINING ON YOUR AMEXXX SUBSCRIPTION. ALTHOUGH WE ARE WORKING ON OTHER RESOLUTIONS, THIS IS THE BEST WE CAN DO AT THE PRESENT TIME. THIS WILL BE DONE AUTOMATICALLY SO, PLEASE DO NOT CALL THE OFFICE. IF NECESSARY, WRITE

HOME DISH 419 PARK AVENUE, SOUTH #4 NEW YORK, NY 10016

THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT OVER THE PAST FOUR YEARS.

The demise of American Exxxtasy, an X-rated subscription service, is an interesting and instructive illustration of the ongoing clash between purveyors of sexually explicit materials, or pornography, and local, state, and federal government officials. It is also an unusual example of the gap that occasionally emerges between a new communications technology and the law. The public and customers of obscene materials generally play a minor role in the inevitable battle between the two powerful adversaries. Public opinion polls consistently find that most citizens consider the proliferation of sexually explicit materials a problem, but they generally do not favor the types of actions taken by police against bookstores, theaters, and other distributors because they overwhelmingly feel that adults should be able to judge for themselves which books, magazines, or films to consume even when such works explicitly depict sexual conduct -- unless such depictions include minors, violence, or deviant sex. 1 However,

-552-

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