Producer Gets 'T&A' onto Cablevision

Cablevision Systems Corp.'s Woodbury, N.Y., system breached the contract of a local-access producer when it declined to air a show consisting of adult movies and phone-sex ads, a federal court judge ruled.

The producer said last week the show has begun to air.

In a ruling late last month, Judge Thomas Platt said T&A
— which its producers, Leased Access Productions, said was short for "Trailers and Advertising" — was not indecent, and therefore not in violation of federal law. A hearing on damages has yet to be held.

The dispute began on Jan. 18, when producer Daniel Beck signed a contract for Cablevision to run his 90-minute program on one of its leased-access channels. The program was to be shown throughout most of Nassau County and programmed after midnight, according to the plaintiff.

According to court documents, the show consists of three-minute "non-explicit" clips from adult movies, followed by three minutes of ads for adult-oriented businesses such as escort services or public-service announcements that support the Free Speech Coalition. The producer completed an application with Cablevision and submitted a five-minute sample tape. While the application was pending, he sold advertising for the show.

Cablevision executed the contract Jan. 26 and Beck paid the system $4,234. But when he submitted a complete program, the access supervisor told him it was against Cablevision policy to run ads for 900-number-based telephone services. He withdrew the program, edited out the 900-number ads and resubmitted it, according to court documents.

But then he was told the 800-number ads had to go, too. Beck said he'd also edit those out if the company would return the purchase price of the time.

Finally, Cablevision said it would not run the show at all because it contained "obscenity, indecency or nudity."

After watching the material, the judge said "no reasonable cable operator in the metropolitan area in this day and age could reasonably believe any of the allegedly 'indecent material' to be lewd, lascivious or filthy" or that it described or implied sexual activity in a patently offensive manner. Cablevision declined comment.

Elsewhere last week, a federal judge approved a motion from Connecticut Systems of Southern Connecticut — a Cablevision limited partnership — to slap a judgment on a Bridgeport, Conn., man accused of buying and selling cable set-tops.

Judge Janet Hall of the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut ordered the defendant, Thomas Smith, to pay Cablevision $195,000 in damages, plus $2,881 in legal fees.

The cable operator said the man bought at least 20 altered set-tops from Ultimate Mail Order Services of Raleigh, N.C. A Cablevision security official, Delroy Patrick, put the company's loss at more than $400 per month.

That loss would continue throughout the estimated 10-year life of the altered cable equipment.

According to court documents, Smith never responded to a summons. In his absence, the judge rendered his verdict on April 2.

"Theft costs legitimate cable customers and cable providers real dollars. We work diligently every day to find and eliminate cable thieves," Patrick said.