FCC Restricts "Indecent" Leased-Access Cable

"That which is not mandatory is forbidden."

The government gets lots of pressure from all sides to "do something" about every problem, real or imagined, in society. Without strict limits on government authority, we wind up with a government unable to keep its nose out of anyone's business. Instead of staying out of the fray, it either punishes or rewards, and sometimes does both at different times.

In 1984, Congress mandated that cable companies provide leased-access channels, and forbade them from exercising any control over content. Then, in the Cable Television Consumer Protection and Competition Act of 1992, Congress mandated censorship. The Act required cable companies to restrict "indecency" on leased-access channels. Then, in the 1996 Cable Act, Congress changed its mind again, and merely allowed cable operators to censor public or leased access programs for indecency.

Indecency is ill-defined, but it is protected in print media by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The ACLU along with several other organizations filed suit in the U.S. Court of Appeals on February 22, 1993, challenging the 1992 rules as unconstitutional.

In June 1996, in Denver Area Educational Telecommunications Consortium, Inc. v. FCC, the Supreme Court ruled that cable operators could censor leased-access channels, but not public access channels.

Source: February 22, 1993, ACLU press release.