Puppetry of the....

The Village of South Holland, Ill.–somehow I picture gingerbread houses and ox carts–is blocking Comcast's On-Demand service because it contains racy fare, as do virtually all On-Demand services that want to stay in demand.

Not surprisingly, some residents see that as censorship.

According to WMAQ TV Chicago, the ban is rooted in an existing franchise agreement that prevents the delivery of any X-rated movies or obscene programming.

Obscenity is prohibited by law anyway, so Comcast could not deliver it if a court were to decide that's what it was. But this isn't about obsecnity because Comcast On-Demand programming isn't going to meet any obscenity test I can almost guarantee.

But if the franchise is written to exclude X-rated fare and Comcast has agreed to it, it is now up to the ACLU, which is interested, to challenge the ban on First Amendment grounds on the part of viewers who didn't sign the franchise agreement and would like access to nonobscene adult content.

I doubt the town has pulled the plub on Internet access, which would be the only way to prevent residents' access to porn over that superhighway of lasciviousness.

One of the arguments for revamping the video franchise process would be not only to prevent the "build my swimming pool" and "resurface my tennius court"-like conditions that irk (where does that word come from?) cable operators, but to prevent this sort of en loco (with the emphasis on "loco") parentis stuff.

I am reminded of a story I wrote about the Michigan town that prosecuted and convicted a penile performance artist on cable access of indecent exposure via cable, with the studio standing in as the public place. That conviction was upheld on appeal, remarkably in my opinion, and is now the law of the land there.

I was told by a First Amendment attorney who has been in the indecency/obscenity/cable programming trenches not to worry, that it was so goofy as not to be precedential. Now I'm not so sure and I am a little worried.

By John Eggerton