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United States v. Playboy Entertainment Group, Inc

    Brief Fact Summary. The Petitioner, the United States (Petitioner), passed a law limiting the time that sex channels could be broadcast of cable TV.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. When the purpose and design of a statute is to regulate speech because of content, special concessions are not afforded to the government simply because the law can be described as a burden instead of suppression.

    Facts. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 (the Act) required cable companies to scramble or block sex stations. The only allowed viewing time was from 10 p.m. until 6 a.m. Often, scrambled channels would bleed sound and part of the picture through on the screen. So, many cable operators chose to block the broadcast from all homes until the adult viewing hours of 10 p.m. until 6 a.m.

    Issue. Is this restriction of cable TV constitutional?

    Held. No. This restriction prevents all homes from receiving cable channels during certain hours and this restriction does not eliminate the possibility of minors accessing the channels without adult supervision.

    Dissent. The protection of school age children from being exposed to adult entertainment is a significant governmental interest to validate this regulation.

    Discussion. Cable television is identical in its ability to infiltrate a home as the radio. However, blocking the stations prevents adults from exercising a choice of entertainment that they hold independent of whether the same activity is not for children. The majority weighs two factors in favor of restricting the channels in its analysis; 1.) many adults would find the Playboy shows offensive, and 2.) the material is coming into the homes with young children unwanted. But, because the restriction applies to the content of the channels it is an unconstitutional restraint of speech.


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