Is Your Kid Watching TV Porn?

Tuesday morning the U.S. Supreme Court takes up a case that will determine the fate of a federal law that gives cable television operators - not parents - the duty to block sexually explicit programs from children during daytime hours.

The case is United States vs. Playboy Entertainment. Christie Hefner, president of Playboy Entertainment, is slated to debate the issue on The Early Show with Tony Snesko, a children's activist, founder of Protecting Our Children and the driving force behind this legislation.
A provision of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 requires adult programming that can not be fully scrambled or blocked from nonsubscribing households to be shown only between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.

The legislation was passed in response to concerns that cable homes that did not subscribe to adult channels occasionally picked up erotic sounds and images as a result of poor signal scrambling.

Activist Snesko says putting the burden on a parent to monitor children's TV viewing is like asking a drug dealer to hide drugs in your house and making the parent control it. Most parents don't know what is on TV or what their kids are watching.

On some systems the Spice Channel is only one click away from The Cartoon Network, he says, adding that the onus should not be on parents to find out whether their TV completely scrambles the adult channels.

Playboy challenged the law, saying that cable operators automatically choose the safe harbor period rather than incurring the substantial costs to upgrade their scrambling technology.

The law in essence banished the network from airing adult programming during daytime hours, Playboy argues. A survey showed that 68 percent of cable companies chose to only air these materials during the nighttime hours.

Playboy argues that regulating television should be left to parents. Parents can buy a lock box for their televisions (and many cable companies provide them upon request). But so far less than 1 percent of cable subscribers have sought such blocking devices.

The federal government has estimated that about 38 million homes with 29.5 million children could potentially be exposed to "signal bleed." Playboy operates two channels devoted to sexually explicit programming.

The decision in this case can be expected sometime before July 2000.

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  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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