An AR Special Report
PORN IN THE AMERICAN MAINSTREAM: A REAL-LIFE=
by Joe Shea
American Reporter Correspondent
HOLLYWOOD, July 6, 2001 -- Are you pretty good at putting two and two to= gether?
As I recently told the Daily News and Pasadena Star-News (= in P1 and P3 stories, respectively), "porn bars" (a phrase I coined a few m= onths ago) are coming to LA and California now that the Ninth Circuit Court= of Appeals has ruled that the state ABC rule banning pornography in bars i= s unconstitutional; the court said that non-obscene (XX) displays in bars a= re protected by the First Amendment.
At the same time, although the quote wasn't used in the Daily News= I> for lack of space, Asst. City Atty. Deborah Sanchez told DN reporter Dan= a Bartholomew that the city probably can't do much about cable and satellit= e displays of porn being fed into anyplace licensed to sell alcohol.
In t= he meantime, I've asked Associate Zoning Administrator DavidKabashima to ap= prove a model condition in a CUP application for Prizzi'sPiazza restaurant = on Franklin Ave. in Hollywood under which the ownerwould voluntarily agree = to refrain from showing porn in his bar orrestaurant, even if it is legal t= o do so. Bruce Willner, the owner, hasagreed to the condition, but it was o= pposed by the Hollywood LAPD Viceunit commander because it has not yet been= a problem in Hollywood -- somuch for preventive enforcement. I don't yet k= now what Mr. Kabashima hasdone or will do.
Below, in the Hollywood Independent, you'll read about about the upsurge= in liquor applications in Hollywood along with the claim by a council depu= ty that the increase in bars will bring down crime. I think it's one of th= e most novel -- and sublimely ridiculous -- arguments for more bars I've ev= er heard.
And on July 3, the day before the lead story in the Hollywood I= ndependent told us about the new liquor license applications, the front pag= e headline in the Business section of the LA Times told us Playboy was buyi= ng into XX hard-core cable and satellite tv channels.
This "detective" says they'll get their money back in California "porn= bars" and that a lot of them will be in Hollywood and the Valley.
Couple= these with the other items below, though, and they makeeven more sense -- = or cents, actually -- and are elements of a real-life,social-engineering de= tective story. I've included CLUES #1-6 and some explanatory notes a= t the top of each section below to help you get to the real story: How porn= ography is the next big commercial thing coming into mainstream society. =
But the meaning of that lays beyond the clues. For the "adders" among = you, I've pasted the Hollywood Independentstory, the Los Angeles Times s= tory, and both the earlier Daily News story and the Pasadena = Star-News column, followed by a piece on the big money involved from th= e New York Times Sunday Magazine, and then my own take on the inside= -City Hall machinations of Padilla and friends.
What it is up to, I think, is a real "Rouge City" -- a hooker-and-porn-h= appy Hollywood like the place pictured in the movie "AI" -- right here in L= os Angeles.
One element that's not going to be apparent from any of this is how Alex= Padilla's elevation to the presidency of the City Council is a major boon = to this effort. Padilla has gotten more than $10,000 dollars -- and Jim Ha= hn got similar amounts -- from cable tv and its lobbyists whocome before hi= s Information Technology Committee and Hahn (as City Attorney) trying to pr= event cable competition from breaking into the LA monopoly markets. They sp= ent some $6 million at City Hall on that and the Open Access issue in the p= ast three years alone -- a huge amount by comparison to any other lobbyist = effort in this city's history.
Now, in porn bars, comes the big payoff on their investment in our cit= y's leadership.
Remember that here in LA, each of 15 franchises are held by only one pro= vider -- contrary to city and state policy on cable competition. You can be= t when Playboy gets chummy with one or more of the big monopoly cable opera= tors, their porn shows will be very much on the agenda. Local newspapers, e= ither by silence (Los Angeles Times), by omission (Daily News= ), or by advocacy (Pasadena Star-News) are helping to create the cli= mate they need.
Get ready to watch a lot more porn -- it's super-saturati= on time, with the last frontier of decency poised to crumble as you cheer f= or the First Amendment.
That's where we stand. Dozens of new bars have been approved and/or are= in the pipeline for Hollywood, and the "porn bar" concept is stealthily ap= proaching. A top council deputy insists that more bars equal less crime, a= nd the community knows better. What will you do?
Joe Shea is Editor-in-Chief of The American Reporter.
[Reporter Leigh Bailey covered this story pretty well. She did not ment= ion the "porn bar" issue, though, and I think that's a key element of the b= oom. But justifying all those new licenses is pretty hard, so 13th Distric= t deputy Roxanne Tynan, who worked for Jackie Goldberg when most of these l= icenses were approved, stretches to justify them. Just FYI, though, here in= Hollywood liquor-related arrests (ABC violations, drunkenness and DUI arre= sts) rose from 1,899 in 1997 to more than 5,000 in 1999. - JS]
Hollywo= od Independent, P1, July 4, 2001
In the past year, dozens of applications for new or renewed liquorlicens= es have been processed and approved by the California Department ofAlcoholi= c Beverage Control, which brings the total number of alcoholoutlets in cent= ral Hollywood to 132 establishments selling alcohol.
To developers and th= eir supporters, the increase in bars andnightclubs in the area is a positiv= e development, both economically andsocially.
"We want Hollywood to become the entertainment center of the city,"says = Roxana Tynan, chief economic development officer for former 13thDistrict Ci= ty Councilwoman Jackie Goldberg. "On Saturday night now,Hollywood is packed= . That's a good thing, not a bad thing."
Bars and nightclubs draw people -- both tourists and Angelenos -- tothe = area, Tynan says, and with them comes additional revenue that benefitsthe a= rea overall.
But increased revenue isn't the only advantage, Tynan says. Anincrease i= n the number of people in the area means less crime, she says.
Although i= t sounds counter-intuitive, "the more people there are onthe streets at nig= ht, the lower the crime rate," Tynan says. "One of thereasons Hollywood was= so scary in the past was because it was abandoned.There was no one on the = streets past dark.
"Abandoned areas cause crime," she says. If the bars and nightclubs that= are popping up all over central Hollywood are successful enough to draw cu= stomers, "it really serves to make Hollywood a safer place to be."
Tynan has worked closely with a number of club owners and restaurateurs = to get approval for new liquor licenses, but says Goldberg'soffice "only su= pported those [applications] that were made by people who have experience" = serving alcohol.
Council support, she says, was essential to getting appr= oval formany of the licensees.
According to the zoning laws, only seven b= usinesses are technicallypermitted to sell alcohol in the area. To have the= zoning board approve anapplication for a new bar or nightclub, the applica= nt must have thesupport of the community.
"Basically, if the police say it's OK and the council officesupports [th= e application], the zoning board will OK the deal," Tynansays.
As a resul= t, she says, the council office looked closely at theapplications it was as= ked to support.
"What we were originally opposed to -- and what we have o= nlysupported twice in eight years -- is an increase in the number of off-si= tesales venues" -- or liquor stores -- "in Hollywood," she says.
John Tronson, president of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce,concurs. = "Bars and restaurants are not the problem in Hollywood. They bringpeople in= to have a good time," he says. "What we'd like to see is adecrease in the= number of mom-and-pop liquor stores in the area. That'swhere you have prob= lems, that is the source of the alcohol-related crimein the area."
But many Hollywood residents feel as Joe Shea does -- that morealcohol i= n Hollywood, whether served across a bar or over a counter, willmean more c= rime, not less.
"The kind of crime associated with alcohol is definitely on the risein H= ollywood," Shea says. "We've gone from something like 1,900 arrests[for alc= ohol-related crimes] in 1997 to more than 5,000 in 1999."
Shea disagrees that crime stems predominately from liquor store sales. "= The arrest records show that there have been a lot of liquor law violations= in establishments, such as under-age drinking and lewd behavior," he says.=
But ancillary crime is also a concern. Shea believes that the increase = in human traffic that will result from more bars and clubs will mean an inc= rease in other types of crime as well.
"Anyone who goes down Hollywood Bo= ulevard and sees the crowdsoutside these clubs knows that drug dealers are = working the margins ofthese crowds," he says. "You see people coming out of= these clubs that aretoo drunk to walk, let alone drive."
There is no doubt in Shea's mind that more clubs will mean moreproblems.= "There will be fights, injuries and DUIs resulting directly fromthe practi= ces that go on in these clubs," he says.
Shea is concerned that the Los Angeles Police Department's Hollywood Div= ision is too understaffed to handle the increase in human traffic.
"While the LAPD has maintained an aggressive stance, they don't have eno= ugh people," he says.
"We're seeing more and more bars in the area, but w= e're not seeing more and more police officers."
Capt. Mike Downing, commanding officer of the Hollywood Division, also e= xpresses some concern that his station might be stretched thin. And given t= he recruitmen t problems the LAPD has faced in the past few years, th sn't likely to change. "Right now, we are down 40 officers from where we sh= ould be," he says.
One of the proposed solutions, Tronson says, is to create a "nightclub c= lub" of bar owners and operators, whose purpose would be to address some of= the potential problems their establishments might cause before they happen= .
Tronson, who also sits on the Hollywood Entertainment District board of = directors, says chamber support of a liquor license application could be co= ntingent on participation in the nightclub club.
Tynan, who is continuing to work on the issue as part of new councilman = Eric Garcetti's transition team, says she would support that idea.
"We're= talking about having [nightclub owners] form a subcommittee to the [Commun= ity Police Advisory Board]," she says.
Tronson says a subcommittee to the HED board is also being considered.
It's possible that club owners might be asked to contribute to a fund th= at would put more security on Hollywood streets between the midnight and 2 = a.m.
"Basically, we are thinking about increasing the number of hours [Bu= rke Security] works," he says.
Currently, Tronson says, the security company patrols only until 9 p.m.=
Shea says he would support such a plan.
"Anything," he says, "that increases the number of security officers on = the streets Friday and Saturday nights would be most welcome."
Copyrig= ht 2001 Los Angeles Independent Newspapers/Encore Media
[This excerpt illustrates how desperate Playboy is to get = into the porn business. But how it will expand the market to pay off the p= remium cost of its acquisitions? They will have to move into bars, which t= he 9th Circuit conveniently made it possible for them to do. - JS]
Los= Angeles Times, C-1, Tuesday, July 3, 2001
Playboy Sheds 'Gentlema= n's' Cloak, Buys 'XX' TV Channels
Media: Its plans to add explicit= programming emphasize the growing tolerance of racier TV.
By SALL= IE HOFMEISTER, RALPH FRAMMOLINO, Times Staff Writers
Playboy Enterprises Inc. on Monday moved to preserve its role asAmerica'= s dominant purveyor of sex on television by bringing more explicitmovies in= to the living room.
The Chicago-based company agreed to acquire three XX-rated sex channels = from the owners of Van Nuys-based Vivid Video, one of the largest producers= of porn movies, for $70 million.
The transaction, as The Times reported Saturday, will put Playboy far ou= t in front of New Frontier Media Inc., which will become the only other sig= nificant adult television programmer.
The move is a departure from Playbo= y's carefully cultivated image as a "gentleman's" brand. The three channels= it is acquiring -- Vivid TV,Hot Network and Hot Zone -- carry more extreme= programming than anything on Playboy's three X-rated networks --Playboy TV= , Spice and Spice 2.
Playboy's strategic about-face underscores the growing acceptance of rac= ier sex on television. Hard-core pornography has become increasingly popula= r and hugely profitable for satellite and cable operators, forcing Playboy = to give up its singular devotion to soft-core programming.
Monday's deal = "dramatically expands the number of U.S. televisionhouseholds that we reach= and therefore clearly positions us as the leading supplier of a range of a= dult entertainment," said Christie Hefner, Playboy's 48-year-old chief exec= utive, in a conference call withinvestors. "We will be able to serve [our] = constituencies better, by providing a range of nonviolent erotic entertainm= ent to meet market demand."
In doing so, the Playboy empire hopes to stay at the vanguard of the sex= ual revolution that founder Hugh Hefner kicked into high gear nearly 50 yea= rs ago with the famous Marilyn Monroe magazine centerfold. The company also= is trying to protect its star television business at a time when Playboy's= flagship magazine and its fledgling Internet operation are losing money.
Playboy is having to pay a steep price to recover lost ground. Monday's = deal values Hot and Hot Zone at $28.3 million -- nearly three times what Pl= ayboy sold them for in 1998.
The television business is the lifeblood of Playboy. The three U.S. chan= nels account for the bulk of the revenue in its entertainment group, which = was the only profitable division in the first quarter. The unit, which also= includes international television, worldwide home video and movie sales, r= eported a $5.2-million profit on revenue of $24.7 million in the three mont= hs ended March 31.
Of that total, the three U.S. channels took in $19 mil= lion, down slightly from $19.1 million in the year-earlier period. The Spic= e acquisition allowed Playboy to increase revenue even as competitors such = as Hot gained market share. The continued expansion on cable and satellite = of Playboy's three channels also helped sustain revenue levels.
Although = the magazine still ranks among the nation's top 10, itscirculation has drop= ped from a peak of 5 million in the early 1980s to 4.5million today. Lately= , the magazine has suffered from an industrywideadvertising and subscriptio= n downturn, losing $1 million in the firstquarter, compared with a $1.6-mil= lion profit a year earlier.
Initially, the prospects of Playboy going hard-core troubled some major = cable operators. Tele-Communications Inc., the nation's most powerful cabl= e company before its sale two years ago to AT&T Corp., pressured Playboy to= tone down the XX-rated Spice channel, hoping to eliminate any regulatory t= hreat or migration to harder-core movies.
The cable industry still has a love-hate relationship with adultprogramm= ing, which one insider calls the "secret hidden asset." Although porn is a = touchy subject, no television executive disputes its high profit.
Few cable or satellite TV executives are willing to talk publiclyabout a= dult programming for fear of inciting criticism from investors,subscribers = and politicians who might revoke their licenses.
AT&T came under fire from some shareholders this year for refusing to di= sclose the profit it earns from porn programming on its cable systems. The = shareholders petitioned the Securities and Exchange Commission to order the= phone giant to disclose the profit, but the SEC declined.
Adelphia Communications Corp., Southern California's largest cable provi= der, refuses to carry any adult channels because its founder and chief exec= utive, John Rigas, believes it is immoral.
Most others, however, quietly = have carried low-voltage adult programming since the late '80s, when pay-pe= r-view technology made it more secure.
Playboy will remain devoted to softer material, whereas Spice will be mo= re extreme, Christie Hefner said in the Monday conference call. Two of the = Vivid channels will be renamed Spice Hot and Spice Zone. The more graphic V= ivid TV will be renamed Spice Platinum Live.
Playboy officials are acutely aware of the success of newhard-core riva= ls. "Do we know those numbers? Yes," English said. "Does itindicate that t= he public's taste and acceptability of [hard-core sex] has changed? Yes. So= 'yes' and 'yes' equal 'got to do something.'"
For distributors, the more explicit porn has the highest profit margins = in the pay-per-view business.
Although cable operators usually pocket les= s than 50% of revenue from a pay-per-view mainstream movie, they keep as mu= ch as 90% of the money from porn provided by Playboy's competitors.
The attractive terms partly were the result of fierce competition among = Vivid, Playboy and New Frontier, as well as the low cost of producing porn.=
Ultimately, Playboy's acquisition "is about generating revenue and profi= tability and maximizing shareholder value," said Mark Kreloff, president of= Colorado-based New Frontier, which owns the only XXX-rated channels. "This= programming sells. It will always sell."
Times staff writer P.J. Huff= stutter contributed to this report.
Pla= yboy Enterprises Inc., whose founder, Hugh Hefner, helped launch the sexual= revolution of the 1960s, finds its television business -- its most profita= ble division--under siege. After deciding not to enter the hard-core segmen= t nearly two years ago, the company did an about-face Monday and purchased = three hard-core channels from the owners of Vivid Video, which quickly beca= me one of its largest competitors. Playboy Chief Executive Christie Hefner = said the deal positions the company as "the leading supplier of a range of = adult entertainment."
Porn continues to gain popularity ...
= Satellite and cable operators expect pay-per-view revenues from adult TV ch= annels to nearly double over the next five years.
2006= (estimate): $945 million
... but Playboy's company-wide revenue h= as stalled and profits have eroded.
Net sales, in millions
2000: $307.7 million
Net income, in millions
2000: -$47.6 million
After a spike in 1999, the company's stock price = hasfallen back to 1998 levels.
Monthly closes and latest for PLA
Sources: Times research, Bloomberg News, Kagan Worl= d Media
The Cable Porn Market
Here's a look at the biggest players in the cable porn industry. Playboy= announced Monday that it is buying Hot Network, Hot Zone and Vivid TV.
M= illions of households reached in 2000 through cable and satellite and the y= ear each channel began:
Source: Times research
Copyright 2001 Los Angeles Times/Tribune Media, Inc
----------<= p>CLUE #3
[The first item in this section is Dana's note about the ci= tyattorney being unable to regulate cable (or satellite) content;unfortunat= ely, that didn't make it into his terrific P1 piece on porn bars that ran i= n the Daily News on May 21. - JS]
Date: 17 May 2001 09:47:07 -0=
She said you were right: cable broadcas= ts are likely out of the city'spurview of regulation. *hat off to you* Stor= y's in the can (if it runs,I'll waive the $10 for a fancy cup of coffee).
Daily News of Los Angeles, P1, May 21, 2001
by Dana Bartholom=
``Monday Night Football'' at local bars could soon be replaced by Monday= night porn under a pending rule change by state saloon regulators to cease= policing public smut.
A federal court decision has prodded the state Alcoholic Beverage Contro= l agency to seriously consider revoking a 30-year ban on sexually explicit = materials where booze is sold.
Repeal of the anti-smut regulation could take place as early as July, AB= C officials say. Less clear is how the rule change would affect Los Angeles= and other cities with laws that limit X-rated businesses.
"The (U.S.) Supreme Court can't even define obscenity," said Matthew D. = Botting, chief counsel for the ABC.
"So we're not in the position to be morality police and decide what is o= bscene and what is not."
While some say a repeal will encourage "porn bars" to proliferate in com= munities throughout the state, others say local X-rated ordinances backed b= y state alcohol regulators are enough to control the practice.
Joe Shea, a Hollywood activist disturbed over the number of topless bars= and adult book stores that have proliferated in his neighborhood, is outra= ged at the likely repeal of the ABC prohibition known as Article 1, Section= 143.4.
Sex sells, he said. And bar owners seeking to buttress their bottom line= s will be tempted to plug in pornographic videos or switch on cable TV sex = channels to titillate new business.
A succession of big-screen porn bars will not only degrade public speech= , Shea maintains, but lead to greater violence against women.
"It's an unhealthy kind of competition and one more element in the slow = decay of our society,'' said Shea, editor of The American Reporter, an onli= ne daily, and president of the Ivar Hill Community Association ofHollywood.=
"And police won't be able to do much about it."
Flashback to 1996, when a swingers organization engaged in what some say= was an orgy in a San Diego hotel ballroom. When ABC investigators tookacti= on against the hotel for permitting booze and sex, the group known asLifest= yle Organization (LSO) staged an erotic art show the next year at aPalm Spr= ings convention center.
What followed was a lengthy court battle brought by the LSO and theAmeri= can Civil Liberties Union for threats made to revoke the center'sliquor lic= ense.
A 9th Circuit Court of Appeals judge ruled the ABC anti-smut regula= tion unconstitutional last year for banning erotic art, protected by the Fi= rst Amendment, under an overly broad prohibition against sexual material "c= ontrary to public welfare and morals."
"It takes the alcohol regulation people out of the business of censorshi= p and tells them to do what they should be doing," said Peter Eliasberg, th= e ACLU attorney who litigated the swingers' case.
"They shouldn't be thought police or be art police."
That leaves cities -- and ABC investigators permitted to help them -- to= control sex and bars.
Deborah Sanchez, an attorney with the Los Angeles Special Enforcement Un= it, said porn bars would be treated like any other new adult businesses lim= ited under strict city zoning, obscenity and nuisance laws. Conditional use= permits could also limit the practice.
"There isn't much space for new adult businesses," Sanchez said. "If a b= ar shows sexually oriented material and it becomes a nuisance to the commun= ity, heck, yeah, we'll do something about it."
Said Botting: "I'm sure some licensees may try to take advantage of this= , but to the extent to which it could become a (pornographic) free-for- all= , there is no basis for such a fear."
But Shea says current city X-rated ordinances fail to allow for cable po= rn. Others such as Jeff Goldfarb, an adult business attorney for Newport Be= ach and other cities, say Los Angeles has plenty of areas in which to open = X-rated businesses, including bars.
Repeal of the state anti-smut rule "w= ill cause some bars on the financial margin to bring in adult movies in one= form or another," he said.
"Whether cities in the long run will be able to essentially fill thelegi= slative gap left by the appeal court remains to be seen."
Copyright 19= 99-2001 MediaNews Group, Inc. and Los Angeles Newspaper Group, Inc.
[The May 13 item, below, features "reader" ema= il from Pasadena Star News Executive Editor Tal Campbell to Star New= s columnist Charles Cherniss about his May 8 column on porn bars. Ironically= , the Daily News and the Pasadena Star News are both owned by= Dean Singleton's MediaNews group. The column follows the more recent resp= onse. Please let me know if you hear of Singleton having ownership interest= in porn studios, sex mags or cable tv franchises. - JS]
Pasadena Star= News, May 13, 2001
Cherniss: McCain, Tito and porn stuff
By Charles Cherniss
TAL CAMPBELL, I suspect, would just as soon tell you directly whathe thi=
He's executive editor of our newspaper group and has a column th=
at appears on the Opinion page.
But I so agree with what he had to say in an e-mail, I have toshare it w= ith you:
"In answer to your column question (asking readers to comment onporn bar=
s and places such as Hooters), government's only role should bepublic healt=
"If the beer, hamburgers and place in which they are served aresan=
itary, that should be it.
"Government has no business in dating matte= rs."
Curtis Kline e-mails this thought on the subject: =
"Which is our greatest worry, kids harmed by porn in bars -- orkids harm= ed by porn in libraries?"
Too bad we have such a hard time convincing kid= s about the wondersof non-porn stuff in libraries.
On the other hand, tee= n friends and I went to the library to lookat National Geographic pix of to= pless native women.
Depends on what's pop at the moment.
Pasadena Star News, P3, May 8, 2001
Cherniss: Bar porn ban face= s extinction
By Charles Cherniss
JOE SHEA lists himself as a columnist for the "American Reporter,the Int= ernet's Digital Daily."
Frankly, I'd not heard of him or the Digital Daily until a couple of hi= s columns popped up in my e-mail Sunday.
The one that grabbed me concerned the sun setting on a California Alcohol= ic Beverage Controls regulation prohibiting bars from displayingporn materi= als and movies; even pay TV junk on Playboy, etc.
Repeal is result of a d= ecision handed down by Fed Appeals Judge Dickran Tervizian, a Pasadenan I g= reatly admire.
KINDA in the dark on this subject. Never spent much time in barsthat mig= ht fall into such degradation. Have yet to visit the gentlemen'sclubs aroun= d Our Valley. Nudie cutie shows rub me the wrong way.
As close as I've be= en resulted from newshawking back in the daysof topless bars.
Once arrived early for a lunch meeting at the then stuffy Jonathan Club = in downtown LA. Decided to have a beer in a saloon next door to theclub.
= Pitch black. Young woman guided me to a stool. Not until my eyes adjusted d= id I notice she was topless.
Left, which had nothing to do with the beer.
Same deal at a press lunch in the Other Ball, later an infamousspot in S= an Gabriel.
Subject was some sort of baton-twirling competition. Can'tremember much = because I was distracted by the topless dancing in thebackground.
Finally= , friend Lloyd Kath was in town from D.C. Lloyd was editorof the California= Kiplinger Letter.
As a matter of education he asked about the topless fa= d.
Wife Maggi and I took him to a place I think was called Gianone's;on L= ake Avenue, just north of Washington.
Our outing ended with Maggi's remark, "When I hire carpenters, Iexpect t= hem to have the tools of the trade."
Gianone dancers didn't.
LACKING experience, I'm not totally sure I share Shea's upset withthe AB= C dropping its porn-in-bars ban.
Don't approve, but wonder if we don't ha= ve more serious things toworry about.
Joe writes, "I am deeply concerned (repeal) will give rise to anew and e= xtremely sordid kind of competition between bars that seek toenhance their = bottom line by exploiting the old maxim, 'Sex sells.' Thatis certainly indi= cated by the success of clubs like Hooters."
Old C-Squared, as some friends call me, has not made it to Hootersin Old= Pasadena, but understand nothing goes on except beer drinking,hamburger ch= omping and ogling of fully clad young women who don't mindbeing ogled.
To= ld it's popular with dating couples.
Joe says, "Such competition will lead to significantly greater violence a= gainst women and deterioration of the standards for publicspeech."
I'm confused. Free speech is engraved in the First Amendment. Todeterior= ate standards means censoring what others have to say or theirinterpretatio= n of what's art.
Those of us who hate smut have a right to demand that go= vernmentnot support it.
Don't those who love smut have the right to look at it in private,adult = bars?
An informed society keeps kids out of bars so they won't be harmedb= y booze or porn.
Joe says public comment on repeal closes on May 7. That wasMonday. No t= ime to comment now, but I didn't know until Joe told meSunday.
HOW do = you feel?
Are you for or against guvment prohibiting beer swilling,hamburger chomp= ing and dating?
-- Reach Charles Cherniss at charles.cherniss[AT]sgvn.= com.
Copyright 1999-2001 MediaNews Group, Inc. and Los Angeles New= spaper Group, Inc.
[A day before the article in the Daily News and two weeks afterthe first co= lumn in the Pasadena Star News came a big piece in the Sunday New= York Times Magazine by former Theater Critic Frank Rich looking at the= financial success of the porn industry in the San Fernando Valley. I've e= xcerpted the beginning of it below. - JS]
The New York Times Sunday Magazine, May 20, 20= 01
Naked Capitalists: There's No Business Like Porn Business
By FRANK RICH
I'm a lifelong show-biz junkie, and what sparked myinterest in the busin= ess was what I stumbled upon in Variety -- its sheer hugeness. Size = matters in the cultural marketplace. If the machinations of the mainstream = TV, movie and music industries offer snapshots of the American character, d= oesn't this closeted entertainment behemoth tell us something as well? At $= 10 billion, porn is no longer a sideshow to the mainstream like, say, the $= 600 million Broadway theater industry -- it is the mainstream.
And so I w= ent to the San Fernando Valley, aka Silicone Valley, on the other si= de of the Hollywood Hills, to talk with the suits of the adult business. I = did not see any porn scenes being shot. I did not talk to any antiporn crus= aders or their civil-libertarian adversaries. I did not go to construct a m= oral brief. I wanted to find out how some of the top players conduct their = business and how they viewed the Americans who gorge on their products.
Among other things, I learned that the adult industry is in many ways a = mirror image of Hollywood. ....
Copyright 2001 The New= York Times, Inc.
[This article about ho= w the City Council and City Attorney officials stopped cable competition in= Los Angeles was killed by the LA Weekly the day I announced my candidacy f= or Mayor. The Weekly declined to run it after the campaign ended. Both the= Weekly and its parent, the Village Voice, get substantial income from adve= rtising for soft-porn services -- so-called "masseuses" and "escorts" -- th= at are often fronts for prostitution. The paper also enjoys a substantial p= resence on the cable tv public affairs shows paid for by the cable operator= s that are the subject of this story. - JS]
THE HIGH COST OF KILLING CABLE COMPETITION
by Joe Shea
LOS ANGELES, January 12, 2001 -- In July 2000, a cable "overbuilder" cal= led RCN presented an application to the City of Los Angeles that would prov= ide competition to other cable companies for the first time in 30 years. T= oday, at best estimates, that contract is still "several months" from being= signed. Indeed, it may never be.
Meanwhile, this city's largest cable provider, Adelphia, hasarbitrarily = excluded adult programming from its 1.1 million homes, raisedrates to some = customers, and will soon require all to use a set-top devicethat ensures al= l premium programming is charged for -- at another $8 or $9a month. And AT= &T and Cox, two other L.A. cable providers, have gone tocourt to quit payin= g cities a franchise tax on their cable-based Internetaccess service, backe= d by a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision inanother case. Other cable = providers are taking heat for poor reception,interruptions of service and o= ther ills that plague their aging systems.
A survey by the Information Technology Agency early this fallshowed that= more than half of all cable users in the city would switchproviders if the= re were competition to switch to; many even asked the cityto start its own = cable system, presumably believing it would not only becheaper and more rel= iable, but that service calls and customer complaintswould be handled with = friendliness and dispatch.
So why is the city holding up the RCN application, which would letthe Pr= inceton, N.J.-based upstart provide 110 channels, local and longdistance fi= ber-optic telephone service, and cable service with moreclarity and less fr= equent interruptions? The bruising clash of giantcompetitors and huge amou= nts of money spent on lobbying city councilmembers and other local official= s may have a lot to do with it.
RCN, just last year the darling of Wall Street and what Business Week ca= lled "the juciest morsel in telecommunications" for prospective merger part= ners, with almost $2.1 billion in cash from Microsoft billionaire Paul Alle= n, is feeling the pinch. It announced a month ago that it would no longer b= e seeking franchises beyond its current commitments (in Los Angeles, New Yo= rk, Boston, Chicago, Portland, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.), saw its = stock downgraded by analysts twice in late December, its stock price fall f= rom $74.88 to $6.44 per share in a year, and got named in the Jan. 8 Barron= 's as one telecom firm that may have difficulty servicing its debt.
Als= o, an agreement with Southern California Edison that RCN hoped would help b= uild out its systema year earlier than originally planned may now be in dou= bt as the utilityflirts with bankruptcy. Meanwhile, politicians are holdin= g the company up for everything they can get.
Did I say holdup? I did. According to Councilman Alex Padilla's spokes= person, David Gershwin, the RCN deal is still "several months" away. But a= s long ago as Nov. 1, the deputy city attorney who negotiated the contract = told me the contract had been fully approved and would in all likelihood co= me before the full council on Nov. 21. Before that time, too, he gave me a= copy of the contract -- marked "final." Yet the only action in the council= that day on cable issues was to direct the city attorney to go to bat for = the city before the FCC in support of "open access," which requires a cable= operator that provides Internet access using an affiliated ISP to also sel= l unaffiliated ISPs access to its system.
"Open access" is the key to the holdup. According to a statemen tCounci= lman Padilla made at the Nov. 1, 2000, meeting of the Information Technolog= y Committee he heads, it is his goal to provide a "level playing field" (a = term coined under a state law that requires overbuilders to pay as much as = incumbent cable providers to gain a franchise) not only to the incumbents -= - AOL Time Warner, Adelphia, AT&T, Cox, etc., or an overbuilder such as RCN= or WINfirst, but future "service providers" as well.
That is an extension of the state's requirement the state law never inte= nded. It means that RCN's price of entry must be so high that service prov= iders who lease its lines to deliver high-speed Internet access, for instan= ce, won't be able to offer lower prices than incumbents do. Thus, Padilla = is telling consumers that if competition comes, it will be at the same pric= e they pay now. And the overbuilders, of course,will not get a monopoly, a= s thoe incumnbents enjoyed for two decades.So what's the point?
Los Angel= es City Council members and mayoral candidates are swimming in a sea of cas= h from cable companies. City Atty. James Hahn, whose deputy drafted the con= tract that has now been indefinitely delayed, got at least $14,000 from cab= le giants AT&T and other cable lobbyists. So has Padilla, whose MIT backgr= ound has helped him understand the issue but may have blinded him to the ec= onomic realities of the cable marketplace.
If RCN can't offer lower prices, the advent of wireless technologies tha= t don't need a monopoly to offer the same services -- and probably at rock-= bottom prices -- may devastate the city's cable franchise tax revenues. =
If RCN is competitive, though, some revenue may still be generated by ca= ble long after wireless has taken over most of the Internet acess market. = But RCN's competitors have given generously to Padilla and wined and dined = him, and so far he has been responsive.
The cost to the city is incalculable, though: RCN promised to give aw= ay high-speed Internet access to every public entity in Los Angeles, from s= chools and hospitals to senior centers and field offices and fire and polic= e stations. Perhaps Padilla's backers prefer that the city buy it from them= .
The largesse of cable companies battling over open access has beenso gre= at, in fact, that the City Ethics Commission has issued two specialreports = about it. In addition to AT&T and Adelphia paying $750,000 eachto sponsor = the fizzled New Millennium celebrations in 1999 -- part of hugeexpenditures= whose recipients, the City Controller has said, cannot be identified -- ca= ble companies have spent some $6 million lobbying city offices since 1999. =
But a Federal court ruled last fall that cities can't regulate "openacc= ess" anyway, so what have all those lobbyists gotten for their money? The = answer, I fear, is a stifling of competition in the services newtechnology = can bring.
City officials, RCN attorneys have said, have asked RCN to do muchmore t= han the earlier franchisees were asked to do -- yet RCN isn'tgetting what t= hey got: a monopoly.
At a thousand pressure points alongthe fault lines of the RCN proposal= , incumbent cable operators have pushed the city and Padilla to eke out mor= e cash, more concessions and more freebies for the city from RCN that will = all end up costing consumers far more than they needed to pay for cable ser= vices. That's one reason that, as ITA official Paul Janus noted, competiti= on has not brought lower prices to cable consumers.
But the table may have turned on the incumbents when the offer from WINf= irst was suddenly withdrawn, leaving no back-up competitor in sight (now, t= hough, yet a third overbuilder has expressed interest, the L.A. Weekly has = learned), and RCN opened its "mega POP," the central connection facility fo= r its planned franchises. Things are "tight" for the company, a City Hall = insider familiar with the negotiations says, but a deal ought to clear City= Hall by the end of January 2001 [see note].
It's time to take cable competition issues away from the City Council, w= here four members are unable to vote on them anyway due to conflicts of int= erest, and to leave them with the Information Technology Agency, which appr= oved the "final" RCN contract last September (the Board of Information Tech= nology Commissioners approved it Oct. 16).
Otherwise, the "historic moment" Padilla promised months ago -- the da= y when Los Angeles would see cable monopolies opened up to competition at l= ast -- maybe awfully slow to come.
[Editor's Note: A week after the preceding story was killed by th= e LA Weekly, Padilla's Information Technology Committee tabled the RCN appl= ication "indefinitely."]
NO MORE CLUES
The American culture is notoriously difficult to tame. It is constantly= changing, and sexual mores change with it. Today American values concerni= ng sex are somewhere between the "free love" ethic of the Sixties and the v= icarious thrills of the AIDS-riddled '90s.
But the question of mainstream pornography is not first about sexual m= ores and values. It is more important as an illustration of the power of b= usiness monopolies to shift our cultural mores on the basis of profit.
= Pornography is a vast business, and by shifting it into high gear, a handfu= l of companies hope to make huge profits. Thousands of other companies hop= e to be downstream as the profits work their way into the post-production i= ndustry, the advertising-dependent media (newspapers, television, magazines= , billboards), the vast alcoholic beverage industry, and finally to the per= formers, whether they are megastars of the porn industry or back-alley pros= titutes.
Indeed, the important thing is to know that tidal shifts in mores no lon= ger originate over centuries in personal decisions made by hundreds of mill= ions of individual people, but are manufactured overnight by companies that= have the power to control the marketplace and the images that reach us via= the mass media.
A society saturated with sex will probably not be as much fun as it soun= ds. As my late friend Arnold Gingrich once explained to me, the thing that= makes sex interesting is not nudity, but mystery. Only when the Emperor's= clothes are on do we wonder lies beneath.
In a culture suffering from super-saturation of sexual imagery, we'll = be unlikely to enjoy it more, to value it much, or to perform it with as mu= ch finesse as they do on tv. In one more rather essential way, we'll be se= parated -- for the profit of a few -- from the essential parts of ourselves= , becoming voyeurs of our own experience.
But the true discovery to which our clues should have lead you is that i= ndependent reporting can give you a perspective that is widely lacking in t= he controlled media. One advantage of that perspective is that it allows y= ou to make your own decisions.
We hope one of those decisions is that you will not allow your country= to be controlled any longer by a handful of image-and-value manufacturers,= and will help return it to the people from whom it sprang. We still have = freedom -- if we have the courage to use it.