Playboy argues against cable TV restrictions

Law would require complete block of audio, video

WASHINGTON — Lawyers for Playboy Television appeared in the Supreme Court on Tuesday to argue against a law that would force cable operators to completely block the sound and video from their softcore porn channels during times when kids are most likely in the audience.

A lower court has already thrown out the law, which was included in the Telecommunications Act of 1996, but the Clinton administration has appealed that ruling to the Supreme Court.

Complete block at issue

Although most cable systems scramble their adult material, the provision, which is currently not in effect, requires operators to completely block the signal between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.

Arguing on behalf of Playboy Television, Robert Corn-Revere told the court that the law is too restrictive. He pointed out that parents who object to the sexually suggestive material leaking into their homes still have the option of calling the cable system and asking for a complete cutoff on a case-by-case basis.

More protection

The Supreme Court has upheld a ban on indecent material on broadcast television between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m., but there are more First Amendment protections for cable. Unlike cable, TV broadcast stations use airwaves borrowed from the federal government, and it is therefore legal for Congress to impose speech restrictions on broadcasters.

The Supreme Court is expected to issue its final ruling on the Playboy Television case by next June.

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