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United States v. Playboy Entertainment Group, Inc.

529 U.S. 803 (2000)

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United States v. Playboy Entertainment Group, Inc.

United States Supreme Court

529 U.S. 803 (2000)

Facts

Section 505 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 required cable companies that offered channels dedicated to sexually explicit programming to block or otherwise limit the signals for those channels when children were likely to be watching television. Even though channels that showed sexually explicit programming were premium channels that required additional subscriptions, there was a risk that signals from these channels would bleed through and become viewable by nonsubscribers, including children. The goal of § 505 was to prevent children from being exposed to sexually explicit content by blocking the channels for all consumers rather than requiring individual households to block sexually explicit material. The effect of § 505 was that the sexually explicit channels were available only between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. Playboy Entertainment Group, Inc. (Playboy) (plaintiff) owned two television channels, Playboy Television and Spice, that focused on sexually explicit content. Playboy’s viewers either paid monthly subscription fees for the channels or paid on a per-view basis. Playboy challenged § 505, arguing that it violated the First Amendment by overly restricting certain cable channels based on their content. The district court held that § 505 was not the least restrictive means for achieving the government’s interest of preventing children from viewing sexually explicit material. Instead of requiring the cable companies to block the signals of the channels, the district court argued that viewers could have the signals for those channels blocked on a household-by-household basis. The United States government (defendant) appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Kennedy, J.)

Dissent (Breyer, J.)

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