A cable television company with more than 100,000 subscribers was indicted today on obscenity charges for broadcasting the Playboy channel.
The Hamilton County grand jury indictment charged Warner-Amex Cable Communications of Cincinnati Inc. with broadcasting obscene programming, including the movies "Maraschino Cherry" and "The Opening of Misty Beethoven."
Warner-Amex officials said the indictment is "without merit" and Playboy magazine, which selects and edits programs for the channel, said in Chicago the indictment was the result of "pressure tactics by a small but vocal minority.
"Neither Playboy magazine nor Playboy channel has ever been judged by any court to be in violation of local community standards anywhere in the country and we are confident that this will be continue to be the case," Playboy said.
About 5,000 Cincinnati homes requested the Playboy channel since it became available May 1 at $16 a month. A technical problem has kept the channel off the air since May 17, but Warner-Amex said it intends to resume the broadcasts as soon as the problem is corrected.
The technical glitch allowed 10 percent of the company's more than 100,000 local subscribers to receive the channel free and unrequested.
Playboy said it has nearly 500,000 subscribers to the channel nationwide.
Warner-Amex officials said the sexually oriented Playboy programming is "clearly compatible" with community standards. They described the channel as a "video rendition of Playboy magazine," which has been sold in the area for more than 20 years.
But Hamilton County prosecutor Arthur Ney Jr. said, "Evidence of a crime in the community was presented to us and we proceded to bring it to the grand jury." Ney is the successor to prosecutor Simon Leis Jr., who obtained an obscenity conviction in 1977 against Larry Flynt for publishing Hustler magazine. That verdict was thrown out upon appeal.
Public controversy over the Playboy programming started brewing the week before the channel made its debut in Cincinnati, when Xavier University returned its 10 shares of free Warner-Amex stock.
Later, the Cincinnati Catholic school system returned its shares in the cable television company. The Cincinnati Board of Education kept its free Warner-Amex stock, but passed a resolution condemning the Playboy channel.
"Under our Constitution, the government does not have the right to dictate what American citizens can see, read or think in the privacy of their own homes," Warner officials said.
"The Playboy channel is a celebration of human sexuality. It features sex without violence," Playboy said.