Saturday, August 03, 2002

Adult movies in hotels targeted

After victory in Mason, group to expand effort

By Michael D. Clark,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        MASON — Warned by the Warren County prosecutor that obscenity charges could be brought against them, operators of a major Mason hotel have decided to stop offering pay-for-view adult movies to guests.

        And Friday,officials of the anti-pornography group that assisted in getting the adult entertainment removed from the Cincinnati Marriott Northeast by videotaping the in-room movies and forwarding tapes to the prosecutor, said supporters are now targeting other Greater Cincinnati hotels. Their goal: to persuade other prosecutors, and hotel owners, to also eliminate such programming.

        Buoyed by the Marriott's reaction, Phil Burress, president of the Citizens for Community Values (CCV), said “we're ecstatic” and that the Sharonville-based anti-pornography group hopes for similar cooperation from other area prosecutors and hotel owners.

        “I'm very pleased with the Marriott and their response,” Mr. Burress said.

        But civil liberties advocates said such actions are anti-First Amendment and remove an entertainment option widely available in hotels nationwide.

        Scott Greenwood, general counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Ohio, blasted CCV's hotel campaign as “fundamentalist, right-wing wackos ... trying to apply the lowest, most restrictive standards to something that is broadcast around the world.”

        “It's appalling. It's clearly a pressure tactic and it's anti-First Amendment and anti-personal autonomy,” said Mr. Greenwood, a Cincinnati-based attorney.

        But Mr. Burress countered that his group, which he said has thousands of area supporters, is simply helping prosecutors make sure obscenity laws are enforced.

        “We're not a police organization, we're an education organization,” he said, adding that some area hotels may welcome the effort because “they don't want to be identified as pornographers.”

        In June Marriott officials at the Mason hotel, at 9664 Mason-Montgomery Road, were contacted by Warren County Prosecutor Tim Oliver and told that the hotel's satellite TV adult programming, which he described as “quite explicit,” violated Ohio obscenity law and that they face possible charges should they continue to offer the service to guests.

        The hotel's decision to at least temporarily withdraw the adult service also pleased Mr. Oliver, who said, “That's what we wanted them to do.”

        In a July 24 letter to Mr. Oliver's office, Mason Marriott lawyer William O'Brien wrote that while the 302-room hotel is “committed to traditional family values,” it is also a business that caters to all members of the public, many of whom have widely varying tastes and opinions.

        Mr. O'Brien stated that though the hotel has removed the adult movie option for guests, it has “reserved the right to change its position.”

        He added, however, that any resumption of the adult entertainment would be accompanied by a notification to the prosecutor's office.

        An estimated 40 percent of the nation's hotels offer adult movie options, accounting for about 90 percent of pay-per-view revenue, according to Mr. Burress. An Enquirer phone survey last year showed that more than half of 20 Hamilton County hotels queried provided such entertainment.

        But Mr. Burress said his group is stepping up its efforts to wipe out what he described as the hotel industry's “white-collar pornography” because “they have started to bring in the hard stuff,” he said, referring to explicitly graphic adult movies.

        He said he is concerned that guests automatically have the option of accessing such adult fare rather than having to request the programming from the hotel and that children in the rooms “are only two or three clicks on a remote control from getting into it” — although hotels usually offer guests the ability to have the adult fare blocked.

        Mr. Burress refused to say which Greater Cincinnati hotels are being targeted.

        Officials from other Tristate Marriotts either declined or were unavailable to comment on whether they carry similar movies or have been contacted by the CCV or their local prosecutors.


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