The stiff penalties imposed by the FCC against two dial-a-porn companies in California this past week will teach purveyors of pornography that the government means business when it tells them they must keep their filth away from children.
The FCC fined the two companies $600,000 each for failing to use one of three methods required by the regulatory agency to restrict access of obscene messages. The FCC is investigating two other California companies for similar disregard for the law.The FCC's tough stance will help Utah in its fight to keep telephone pornography away from children. Although Mountain Bell has assured Utah that dial-a-porn businesses will not be allowed to operate in the state, Utah children can call services in other states.
The U. S. Attorney's office and Mountain Bell continue to receive complaints from Utah parents whose children call out-of-state pornography services. The phone numbers to out-of-state services are easy to get hold of; children often pass them around at school.
Because Dial-a-porn businesses in other states have also ignored the law requiring them to use an access code, a scrambler or pre-payment by credit card when offering the service to callers, Utah children only have to dial "1" then the number to hear the pornographic messages.
It is unfortunate that it took the abuse of a 10-year-old girl by two boys who had just listened to a dial-a-porn message to spark national anger against the sex-talk industry.
Hopefully, the rage will burn long enough to put the $2.4 billion-a-year industry out of business. While FCC is cracking the whip over those who ignore the limited access law, Congress is ready to put the whole lot out of business.
Congress gave final approval this week to a sweeping provision that would ban all dial-a-porn and President Reagan is expected to sign it.
Congress is to be commended for its vigor in passing the bill despite loud claims by legal experts that the bill might be unconstitutional. These opponents claim the ban violates the right to free speech.
But the First Amendment protection of free speech has never been extended to include protection of obscenity. It would be a dangerous precedent to try to extend it that far in this case.
Dial-a-porn services have no redeeming value. They degrade the minds of the adults who use them and damage the vulnerable children who stumble across them.
There will undoubtedly be a fight to keep the services. Dial-a-porn scoops billions of dollars annually into several pockets. For example, AT&T has collected $5.5 million from calls made to just one of the California companies fined by the FCC.
But that fight should be resisted. It was foolish to allow the services to spring up across the country five years ago.
They have only served to make conglomerates richer and impoverished minds poorer. They have victimized our children and emptied the pocketbooks of the unfortunate people fascinated by such depravity.
It is time to recognize the mistake and eliminate telephone pornography entirely, instead of just trying to control it.