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United States v. Playboy Entertainment Group, Inc.
Seal of the United States Supreme Court.svg
Argued November 30, 1999
Decided May 22, 2000
Full case name U.S. v. Playboy Entertainment
Citations 529 U.S. 803 (more)
Holding
Struck down Section 505 of Telecommunications Act of 1996 which required that cable television operators who offered channels "primarily dedicated to sexually-oriented programming" must scramble completely or fully block such material.
Court membership
Chief Justice
William Rehnquist
Associate Justices
John P. Stevens · Sandra Day O'Connor
Antonin Scalia · Anthony Kennedy
David Souter · Clarence Thomas
Ruth Bader Ginsburg · Stephen Breyer
Case opinions
Majority Kennedy, joined by Stevens, Souter, Thomas, Ginsberg
Concurrence Stevens
Concurrence Thomas
Dissent Breyer, joined by Scalia, Rehnquist, O'Connor

United States v. Playboy Entertainment Group, Inc., 529 U.S. 803 (2000), is a case in which the United States Supreme Court struck down Section 505 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 which required that cable television operators who offered channels "primarily dedicated to sexually-oriented programming" must scramble completely or fully block such material .

Facts[edit]

In order to shield children from hearing or seeing images resulting from signal bleed, Section 505 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 was enacted.

Section 505 requires cable television operators providing channels “primarily dedicated to sexually-oriented programs” either to fully scramble or otherwise fully block those channels, or to limit their transmission hours when children are unlikely to view, set by administrative regulations as the time between 10pm and 6am. 47 U.S.C. § 561(a)

Playboy Entertainment Group, Inc. challenged Section 505’s constitutionality.

Procedural history[edit]

The District Court held that Section 505 is content-based restriction on speech that was subject to strict scrutiny. In order to satisfy a strict scrutiny analysis, the government was required to prove that it was “narrowly tailored to promote a compelling government interest”.

The government offered three interests to justify § 505: (1) protecting children from being exposed to sexually explicit material; (2) supporting parents' rights to raise their children as they see fit; and (3) ensuring an individual's right to privacy in the home.

The District Court agreed that the interests the statute advanced were compelling but concluded that it violates the First Amendment because the Government might further its interests in less restrictive alternative ways. One less restrictive means is Section 504 of the act, which requires a cable operator, upon request of a subscriber to fully scramble or otherwise block a channel that the subscriber does not wish to receive.

The United States appealed directly to the Supreme Court of the United States, seeking to have the judgment reversed.

Holding[edit]

The Supreme Court affirmed the District Court.

The court held that Section 505 was content-based restriction because the provision singled out not only particular programming but particular programmers as well.

Moreover, although the court accepted the government’s compelling interests, it nevertheless concluded that provision violated the First Amendment's free speech clause because the government failed to prove that provision was least restrictive means of achieving goal of preventing children from hearing or seeing images resulting from “signal bleed.” The court stated that Section 504 presented such an alternative means of regulation.

The government argued that Section 504 was less effective than the blocking and time-channeling provision of Section 505.

However, the court held that the Section 504, combined with “market-based solutions such as programmable televisions, VCR's, and mapping systems” can eliminate signal bleed without restricting a cable operator's ability to transmit its programming to those who want to receive it.

The Court concluded that because of the existence of such alternatives, which could be equally effective at furthering the government's interest, the overly restrictive section 505 violated the First Amendment.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


Category:United States Supreme Court cases Category:United States Supreme Court cases of the Rehnquist Court Category:United States First Amendment case law Category:United States obscenity case law Category:Playboy Category:2000 in United States case law Category:Pornography law