May 16, 1986

Report Outline
Agitation for Controls
Evolving Legal Concepts
‘High-Tech’ Pornography
Special Focus

Agitation for Controls

Coming Report by Attorney General's Panel

Only a few years ago pornographic materials appeared on the verge of overcoming a long tradition of legal restraints and entering the mainstream of American culture. Main Street, it seemed at times, would soon resemble Times Square, where magazines and films depicting a bewildering variety of sexual activities are openly available. Pornographic films, once viewed mostly by the furtive patrons of seedy theaters, began showing up on videotape in millions of living rooms.

But a reaction against the explosive growth of the pornography business has set in. Things have gone too far, too fast for many people—liberals as well as conservatives. Pornography is becoming increasingly violent and more difficult to avoid, critics say. In addition, pornography is seen as a major source of income for organized crime, which allegedly controls a substantial portion of the industry. A variety of groups, from the Reagan administration to conservative and feminist organizations, argue that it is time to look at the way existing laws protect—or do not protect—the public from materials they consider harmful or immoral.

An important part of that re-examination is the Attorney General's Commission on Pornography, appointed by Justice Department chief Edwin Meese III last year to study the “problem” of pornography. The commission is scheduled by early July to issue a report, which could be the foundation for new legal attacks on pornography. The report will be the first comprehensive federal investigation of pornography since 1970, when a presidential commission recommended repeal of existing obscenity laws.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Apr. 16, 2004  Broadcast Indecency
Mar. 28, 2003  Movie Ratings
Nov. 17, 1995  Sex, Violence and the Media
Feb. 19, 1993  School Censorship
Dec. 20, 1991  The Obscenity Debate
Dec. 07, 1990  Does Cable TV Need More Regulation?
May 16, 1986  Pornography
Jan. 04, 1985  The Modern First Amendment
Oct. 19, 1979  Pornography Business Upsurge
Mar. 09, 1979  Broadcasting's Deregulated Future
Mar. 21, 1973  Pornography Control
May 17, 1972  Violence in the Media
Jan. 21, 1970  First Amendment and Mass Media
Jul. 05, 1967  Prosecution and the Press
Jun. 28, 1961  Peacetime Censorship
Apr. 12, 1961  Censorship of Movies and TV
Dec. 23, 1959  Regulation of Television
Jul. 29, 1959  Control of Obscenity
Jul. 27, 1955  Bad Influences on Youth
Mar. 21, 1952  Policing the Comics
Apr. 12, 1950  Censorship of Motion Pictures
Sep. 20, 1939  Censorship of Press and Radio
Civil Rights: Women
Popular Culture
Radio and Television