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Women who answer God's call provide valuable local ministries (1/11/04)

Pastors predict bleak future if local casinos open (12/28/03)

Soap, figurines, candles keep books company in Christian stores (12/21/03)

In order to form a more perfect union (11/30/03)

Federal Marriage Amendment receives Fellowship’s endorsement (11/23/03)

Drug czar congratulates Teen Challenge (11/16/03)

Christian fiction no long back-shelf item (10/19/03)

DREAM3 benefits churches (10/19/03)

Youth rise to DC03 challenge (10/12/03)

Ministry uses drama, music to touch city for Christ (9/28/03)

Displeased viewers protest raunchy programs (9/21/03)

Grit, determination key to cities blocking cable pornography (8/31/03)

Economic slump doesn't always derail giving (8/24/03)

Ruling threatens family, Christian leaders say (8/17/03)

Anti-aging options require balanced approach to health, beauty (8/10/03)

Convoy of Hope reaches out to inner-city neighborhood (7/27/03)

Fight for the flag moves to nation’s schools (7/20/03)

Drama speaks volumes to alienated veterans (7/13/03)

Church's integrity well received following nightmarish ordeal (6/29/03)

Tornadoes cut wide swath across nation's midsection (6/22/03)

Accountability partners provide human feedback that filters don't (6/15/03)

Checking out your horoscope? God advises you to skip it (6/8/03)

Christian filmmakers pursue wider market success (5/25/03)

Intervention is key to preventing suicide (5/18/03)

Adoption often right decision for young expectant mothers (5/11/03)

Dallas-based ministry keeps inmates out of jail (4/27/03)

Medical analysis of Jesus' death generates interest (4/20/03)

Small-town church reaches community (4/13/03)

Young married couples lulled by false sense of security (3/30/03)

Virtual gambling days may be numbered (3/23/03)

Contemporary Christian music copes with its continuing success (3/16/03)

A/G prayer event set for gathering in nation's capital (3/9/03)

Volunteers give church voice in community (2/23/02)

Federal law protects churches in zoning battles (2/16/03)

Singles find cyberspace dating not always match made in heaven (2/9/03)

Predators often plan strategies long in advance (1/19/03)

The Cross and the Switchblade still makes impact 40 years later (1/12/03)

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2002 PE Report stories

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Grit, determination key to cities blocking cable pornography

By Mark A. Kellner (8/31/03)

What was once the province of shady bookstores and back-alley video parlors is now big business in America’s urban centers. A 2001 estimate put annual cable porn revenues at $2.5 billion, and there’s been no noticeable slowdown in the porn business despite an American recession. Even communities with strict regulations on pornographic video

retailers often aren’t regulating pay-per-view porn that is available on the living room television set.

Worse still, minor gains in blocking porn have sometimes been reversed. For instance, Adelphia Corporation made headlines last year when it removed cable porn channels from a system it acquired in West Hollywood, Calif. After Adelphia filed bankruptcy, its trustees restored cable porn in the pay-per-view lineup.

While the high-priced content — $8 and up per show — could easily hurt family budgets should an addicted user gain access to a cable system, even those without television sets in their homes, let alone cable, could be caught in cable porn’s grip. Community law enforcement and health services often pick up the pieces after porn has influenced a crime. Taxpayers, in turn, pay for those services.

The prevalence of such material can have a devastating impact on an entire community. For example, two years ago a video retailer in Provo, Utah, cited the availability of cable porn in defense against a charge of trafficking in obscene materials. He was acquitted when the jury learned that 20,000 X-rated movie orders were processed for Provo homes each year via cable and satellite TV providers.

Increasingly, telecommunications titans are peddling porn to small-town America, according to Janet M. LaRue, chief counsel of Concerned Women for America. Cable companies make more money from “adult” movies than other pay-per-view programming, LaRue told PE Report.

Robert W. Peters, president of watchdog group Morality In Media, says the markup on pay-per-view porn is 80 to 90 percent, meaning there’s plenty of profit for cable firms and porn distributors to divvy up.

LaRue and other observers — including those inside the pornography business — note that lax enforcement by the Justice Department in the 1990s created the impression that selling porn via cable is acceptable. It isn’t, she asserts. “The transmission of obscenity via cable is not protected by the First Amendment,” LaRue says. And, despite the profit potential such pay-per-view items offer, cable systems certainly aren’t required to provide porn, she says.

Unlike so-called “premium” cable channels such as HBO and Showtime, which many families block due to the racy content, “pay-per-view” can be ordered with the press of a remote control button, a telephone call or even a click on a Web site. Unless the account holder has blocked such services, the programming can be seen by anyone in a household with access to the cable system.

Fighting such battles is long and lonely work sometimes. Phil Burress of Citizens for Community Values in Cincinnati says he’s been battling electronic porn since the Playboy Channel arrived in 1983. Cable porn has grown dramatically in the Cincinnati area since 1995.

Undaunted, Burress is fighting back. Communities in his area have received his mailings detailing what obscenity is, why it is a danger and how to block it in future cable franchise agreements. While it’s not a crime to view pornography, per se, Burress notes that it is a crime to “pander,” or sell, such items, as well as to transport them interstate, even via satellite for delivery on a pay-per-view cable system.

Often, he notes, communities are unaware that porn is on the menu when a new cable provider begins service.

“In every case the cities did not know what was coming,” Burress says. “No one thought they would put hard-core porn on. Yet with most of these contracts, we have the cities getting up to 5 percent of the revenue of any pay per view.”

Because of cable TV’s pervasive reach — more than 96 percent of the 96.5 million U.S. television households have access to cable TV lines and therefore could sign up for service — it’s rare that “new build” cable agreements will come before most local governments. But Burress, Peters and LaRue say negotiating renewal agreements and pacts with new cable suppliers is where governments, led by community pressure, can have an impact.

“If communities stood up and fought these companies, they would back off,” Peters says. “Communities can engage in strong negotiations with the cable programming suppliers.”

LaRue concurs. “The cities are the ones that enter into contracts with the cable companies,” she says. “If it’s not going to sell, if the majority of people in a community are not going to subscribe to pay-per-view pornography, they should let the council know they’re not buying.”

That happened three years ago in Greenville, Texas, about an hour north of Dallas. The city got into the cable business, operating its own system. When residents learned that the new system was going to offer pay-per-view “adult” programming, lay and church leaders undertook a three-month protest, which resulted in city officials scrapping the porn channel. The substituted channel offered Christian programming, including local church services.

“That’s where the churches have to weigh in and work together and get their people out to a city council meeting,” LaRue says. And, she adds, individuals who call their cable companies to complain about the availability of pornographic programming can have an impact as well.

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