Sex Channel Limits Turned Off By Supreme Court

Congress went too far and tried to trump free speech when it tried protecting children from Playboy TV and other sex-oriented cable television channels, according to a Supreme Court ruling May 22. nrnPlayboy Entertainment Group challenged the law as a First Amendment violation. It wasn't exactly overwhelming, but a 5-4 majority said requiring cable television systems to limit sex channels to the overnight hours if they don't scramble the signal for non-subscribers took a bigger lead than the First Amendment allowed off base. nrnThus a key part of the 1996 Communications Decency Act is struck down, as the high court upheld a lower court ruling that less restrictive alternatives were possible and should have been explored. nrn''If television broadcasts can expose children to the real risk of harmful exposure to indecent materials, even in their own home and without parental consent, there is a problem the government can address,'' wrote Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote for the majority. ''It must do so, however, in a way consistent with First Amendment principles. Here the government has not met the burden the First Amendment imposes." nrnKennedy was joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, David H. Souter, John Paul Stevens, and Clarence Thomas. nrnThe Clinton Administration fought for the law, saying without it children whose parents didn't subscribe to sex channels could still see or hear sexy programming. The government argued the problem is common in up to 39 million homes.