published Saturday, March 16th, 2013

Citizen uncovers EPB's porn problem

Sunshine Week, a national initiative to promote the importance of open government and freedom of information laws, comes to a close today. This week, the Free Press opinion page has highlighted a number of editorials that feature information culled from requests for government documents and featured discussions about the value of government transparency.

While the media owes it to citizens to utilize and defend open records and open meetings laws, ultimately it is you, the citizen, who is best situated to use freedom of information and sunshine laws to hold government accountable.

One local citizen activist who has used open records in an especially effective way is David Tulis, whose website Nooganomics. com takes a Chattanooga-centric look at free-market economics and Christianity. He wanted to know why the city of Chattanooga is in the porn business. Specifically, Tulis had discovered that since EPB, Chattanooga's taxpayer-owned electric company, launched its cable service, it's offerings have included a large variety of adult movies.

Through open records requests, Tulis discovered that in January, EPB made 225 adult movies available, including "Housewives: Swinger Sex Orgy Party," "All Day Sex Fest," and "Lesbian Teen Tryouts," according to a Feb. 25 Nooganomics.com post.

Tulis, who previously worked at the Times Free Press as a copy editor, also learned that EPB had been providing adult movies to its Chattanooga-area cable customer since September 2009 and sold as much as $10,500 worth of porn in a month.

You may be thinking, "Mr. Tulis, if you don't like porn, change the channel or don't order it." And that is the proper response under most circumstances. But in this case, every taxpayer and every EPB power customer is subsidizing porn whether they're an EPB cable customer or not.

That's because EPB's cable service is part of the Smart Grid, a fiber-optic network built with $552 million of federal and city tax money and bonds that will be paid back with money taken from EPB electric customers. Additionally, EPB's Fiber division, which includes the cable service, annually receives millions of dollars in loans and other subsidies from EPB electric revenues.

After Tulis received information exposing the number of pornographic titles EPB delivers to customers, EPB spokesman John Pless claimed that the city electric company was right to be in the porn business based on free speech grounds.

"As a government entity EPB is prohibited by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution from making content-based restrictions on speech, or censoring protected speech," Pless said. "EPB believes it is up to our customers to decide what legally protected content they choose to watch. EPB does offer parental controls with our Fi TV service that allows our customers to block whatever content they choose to block in their homes and businesses."

So according to Pless, EPB is required to offer porn. That's a new one.

In most cases, people who object to porn could simply refuse to subscribe to a cable or satellite television provider that offers pornographic movies. However, in the case of EPB, all taxpayers and every EPB electric customer has indirectly played a part in providing on-camera sex to the masses.

As a result, thousands of people who object to porn have their tax dollars -- or a portion of their electric bill payment -- spent to subsidize pornography against their will. Apparently, these people's rights don't matter to EPB.

Whether, like Tulis, you believe that pornography is an instrument of the devil, or, like many other Americans, you have a more tolerant view of porn, it's clear that subsidizing and enabling pornography is not the proper role of a taxpayer-owned government agency.

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bret said...

I don't believe in lots of things my tax dollars are used for: fighting senseless wars, subsidizing Big Oil, Blue Rhinos, Riverbend. So what?

It is kind of unusual to see the FP editor come down on the side of censorship.
If the EPB is collecting $10,000/month selling adult movies, that's $10K/ month the citizens don't have to cover in higher fees or taxes.

March 17, 2013 at 1:13 a.m.
aae1049 said...

Bret, David Tullis is not advocating for censorship.You missed the entire point, Our government should not be funding porn with tax dollars. The private sector is free to pursue porn, but taxpayer dollars should not be used for porn pursuits.

March 17, 2013 at 9:39 a.m.
shen said...

bret, these individuals will harp on anything to satisfy their primary goals. They're purpose is to remove any and all things they view t was competition, and replace with their own cronies. They hide under an umbrella of being concerned watchdog groups and so-called activists when they're anything but.

They're primary goal is and always has been to create as much chaos as possible to divert attention away from themselves.

March 17, 2013 at 10:13 a.m.
Easy123 said...

How is offering pornographic movies "subsidizing porn"? The customers still have to pay for each movie they watch. The EPB is simply offering the customers the choice of buying those types of movies.

Tax pay dollars aren't "funding" porn.

March 17, 2013 at 2:02 p.m.
MasterChefLen said...

OK, porn aside, there are obviously opponents to EPB offering high speed Internet and cable. So would these opponents be in favor of Comcast/Infinity (or whatever the they change their name to next in order to hide their terrible reputation) having the monopoly in high speed Internet and cable? I'm not counting AT&T's DSL U-Verse in this conversation because their speeds are no where in comparison to the cable providers. Choice is good. For decades the cable companies have had near monopoly pricing and availability power to gouge the customer and provide required package offerings with a lot of things customers' do not want but pay for to get the few premium channels they do want. Competition actually benefits the customer.

March 17, 2013 at 2:05 p.m.
shen said...

The truth is, the only reason they are going after EPB is because they fear the competition. I've dealt with all three: EPB, Cable and AT&T. I can honestly say EPB is the better of all three. That would include service, attitude and honesty. Cable and AT&T can be very deceitful. They'll tell you one thing, then when your bill comes out it's a shocker!

March 17, 2013 at 2:09 p.m.
aae1049 said...

Private cable companies can offer all the porn they wish, but EPB is funded by $301 Million in taxpayer dollars. EPB should not be competing with the private sector porn business with tax dollars.

March 17, 2013 at 5:32 p.m.
shen said...

Private cable companies receive taxpayer monies too. In fact, there's no private company that hires on a large scale who hasn't received some form of government assistance in the way of taxpayer dollars.

March 17, 2013 at 6:02 p.m.
Easy123 said...

EPB is not competing with the private sector porn business. EPB is offering the choice for their users to buy pornography if they wish.

March 17, 2013 at 7:42 p.m.
shen said...

Easy, these people are so deceitful and dishonest, it's mind boggling. To know they actually have followers who, apparently refuse or don't know how to check out the facts, are both disturbing and mind boggling.

March 17, 2013 at 8 p.m.
aae1049 said...

Shen, EPB is a taxpayer funded governmental agencies, that does not be in the porn distribution business. It is just that simple. Free market does not need government competing with private sector. Where to you draw the limits of government? Does government exist for need you may have?

http://littlechicagowatch.com/2012/11/epb-gig-debt/

March 17, 2013 at 11:17 p.m.
Easy123 said...

aae1049,

"Shen, EPB is a taxpayer funded governmental agencies, that does not be in the porn distribution business. It is just that simple."

EPB is not in the porn distribution business. What don't you understand about that? EPB is not distributing porn. EPB is offering pornography to its customers just like it offers any other pay-per-view program. Customers must pay for the pornography in order to watch it. They do not get it for free.

"Free market does not need government competing with private sector."

There is no way around it. You're delusional if you don't think the government doesn't have a hand in nearly everything in the private sector.

"Where to you draw the limits of government? Does government exist for need you may have?"

What does a cable provider's choices have to do with the limits of government? Do you even know what you're talking about at this point or are you just going into a WingNut tizzy per usual?

This issue has nothing to do with anyones needs or even government. EPB has the right to provide whichever television, film, and movie choices to their customers; pornography included. Being government funded does not and should not limit the options of the customer.

Should we cut out sex education in public schools? Maybe we should just avoid talking about the reproductive system all together, right? Can't let those government-funded schools subsidize pictures of penises and vaginas to our high schoolers!

Do you really expect people to take you seriously? Or are you just jumping on board with any WingNut propaganda that appears on the Free Press side of the TFP?

March 18, 2013 at 1:32 a.m.
GMills said...

Good morning, April. Even though I am a Bible-toting Christian, I see the hypocrisy in your statements. After reading and understanding exactly where you stand on the issue of porn, where do you stand on the issue of the separation of church and state? We do have substantial case law referencing the separation of church and state, but I have yet to see any about the separation of state and porn. There are a dozen Christian ONLY channels on the EPB network. I do not pay an additional fee for these channels, as they are included in the bundle. That means I am forced to pay for Christian channels, even if I do not agree. To help illustrate my point, I took the liberty of just replacing one word in three different paragraphs presented above. Give this a read.

1:"Bret, David Tullis is not advocating for censorship.You missed the entire point, Our government should not be funding Christianity with tax dollars. The private sector is free to pursue Christianity , but taxpayer dollars should not be used for Christian pursuits." #2: "You may be thinking, "Mr. Tulis, if you don't like Christianity, change the channel or don't order it." And that is the proper response under most circumstances. But in this case, every taxpayer and every EPB power customer is subsidizing Christianity. Whether they're an EPB cable customer or not." #3: "Shen, EPB is a taxpayer funded governmental agencies, that does not be in the Christian distribution business. It is just that simple."

We are being forced to subsidize the Christian channels with government funds. Why are you not decrying this?

March 18, 2013 at 9:15 a.m.
dfreezy said...

I like my porn in the form of sitcom parodies. Seinfeld, anyone?

March 18, 2013 at 9:20 a.m.
bret said...

April says, "Our government should not be funding porn with tax dollars."

You have it backwards, honey. Our government isn't subsidizing porn; porn is subsidizing our government. I can think of few less-painful ways for our government to raise $10,000/month. By offering this service EPB has collected $10K/month that they would otherwise have to collect in fees or taxpayer subsidies. Reminds me of the movie I watched last night: "April Likes it Both Ways." You decry taxpayer subsidies, but then moan when EPB has a self-funding mechanism that reduces them.

Even if we accept your prudish statement, "Our government should not be funding porn with tax dollars," I would ask, "Why not?" Because you don't like it? People are free to choose what they want to watch and what they agree to pay for. Anything else is censorship.

March 18, 2013 at 12:19 p.m.
bret said...

Right-wingers spend six days a week preaching about the evils of an intrusive government in our lives. "Leave us alone," they say.

And on the seventh day they want government to dictate what others can and cannot watch on our own televisions.

March 18, 2013 at 12:36 p.m.
bret said...

April, is it true that your objection to porn stems from the fact that Missy Crutchfield was once in a soft-porn film?

March 18, 2013 at 12:37 p.m.
Leaf said...

Well played, GMills.

March 18, 2013 at 3:19 p.m.
aae1049 said...

Bret, do you ask on behalf of Channel 9 news or do you ask as a citizen?

After serving on the East TCCY for over a decade, it is a fact that children are sex trafficked into the porn industry. For you to marginalize the victimization of young women, not of adult age and children is really not surprising to me. I am in very good company sharing this position about the impact the porn industry has on family and children.

Bret, The throw backs from worst news source ever Channel 9 news.

March 18, 2013 at 4:36 p.m.
Easy123 said...

aae1049,

You have completely moved the goalposts. You have no logical argument here so you resort to an emotional strawman argument that has absolutely nothing to do with the issue at hand.

No one, and I repeat NO ONE, has marginalized sex trafficing or the victimization of young women. You have fabricated that claim. The pornography that EPB offers is completely legal. The pornography they offer is between consenting adults. If parents monitor their children, they will never lay eyes on such films.

Your morality is your own. Stop trying to force it on everyone else.

March 18, 2013 at 4:46 p.m.
jjmez said...

If the concern that porn attracks underage youth was really legit, these hypocrites would be against all businesses, including AT&T and Cable, selling it to their customers.

March 18, 2013 at 5:05 p.m.
Easy123 said...

jjmez,

I don't think porn would be such a large industry if sex wasn't such a taboo in the United States.

March 18, 2013 at 5:14 p.m.
jjmez said...

I agree, Easy. It's like that perverbial forbidden fruit. The more something is made out to be bad, wrong or a sin the more the desire to experiment or take a peek and see what it's like. In fact, studies have shown the vast majority who become hooked on porn often claim to be the most religious. Studies have also shown, red states and the Bible Belt, subscrbe to more porn than most any other states in the nation.

March 18, 2013 at 5:18 p.m.
bret said...

April, I have nothing to do with Channel 9 so why bring them into it?

jjmez, I'll bet EPB sets a record for new subscribers this week.

Also, GMills makes a great point. More troubling to me than porn are all the lying TV evangelist hypocrites preaching their Christian hate on my television. Why can't something be done about that? At least I can choose whether to order a porn movie or not. But these guys are infecting my whole channel lineup. I see no Muslim telecasts, few Jewish telecasts and certainly no Hindu or Sikh preachers on TV. So why is the city of Chattanooga subsidizing one religion over another?

March 19, 2013 at 1:38 a.m.
fairmon said...

The TVA and EPB could be privatized and end all government involvement in those entities. There would then be less criticism of government and a reduced need for government employs paid by tax payers. Compare the number of six figure TVA employees to that of the private sector per KW of power generated or the number of customers served.

March 19, 2013 at 3:55 a.m.
Lr103 said...

In essence, fairmon admits the porn argument has nothing to do with children being lured into the industry, like one poster falsely claimed, and everything to do with privatizing? Thanks! You guyts lose all credibility.

fairmon, not that anyone could ever convince you, but TVA and EPB emplyees aren't paid with taxpayer dollars.

Remember all those California electrical blackouts that sometimes took out entire cities? Well, those were caused by those independent privatized energy servers operating on the cheap, using unskilled labor and cutting the wrong underground wires.

March 19, 2013 at 8:11 a.m.
Lr103 said...

In essence, fairmon admits the porn argument has nothing to do with children being lured into the industry, like one poster falsely claimed, and everything to do with privatizing? Thanks! You guyts lose all credibility.

fairmon, not that anyone could ever convince you, but TVA and EPB emplyees aren't paid with taxpayer dollars.

Remember all those California electrical blackouts that sometimes took out entire cities? Well, those were caused by those independent privatized energy servers operating on the cheap, using unskilled labor and cutting the wrong underground wires.

I'm with bret. All this bashing EPB are just bringing them more customers. I'm one of them.

March 19, 2013 at 8:13 a.m.
Lr103 said...

In essence, fairmon admits the porn argument has nothing to do with children being lured into the industry, like one poster falsely claimed, and everything to do with privatizing? Thanks! You guyts lose all credibility.

fairmon, not that anyone could ever convince you, but TVA and EPB emplyees aren't paid with taxpayer dollars.

Remember all those California electrical blackouts that sometimes took out entire cities? Well, those were caused by those independent privatized energy servers operating on the cheap, using unskilled labor and cutting the wrong underground wires.

I'm with bret. All this bashing is just bringing in more new customers for EPB. I'm one of them.

March 19, 2013 at 8:14 a.m.
Lr103 said...

Sorry for the triple postings. Don't know what caused it.

March 19, 2013 at 8:25 a.m.
PhillipDampier said...

This is a pretty ridiculous argument.

My first problem with all this is that Drew Johnson, who is evidently the author of this piece and also the opinion editor of this newspaper has an enormous conflict of interest because of his association with the Taxpayers Protection Alliance, a corporate funded think tank that advocates on behalf of the interests of telecommunications companies in Tennessee, some direct competitors. No doubt we will be told this group is non-partisan, but that does not mean it does not accept contributions from corporate interests that have a dog in this fight. If TPA wants to prove me wrong, release their corporate donor list.

There does not seem to be any disclosure of this important connection, much less a willingness to end his association with this group while serving in the role he accepts at the newspaper.

Second, the author completely ignores the enormous tax breaks that Comcast and AT&T have accepted. AT&T paid zero federal taxes in 2011 and actually received hundreds of millions in taxpayer-subsidized refunds. Comcast wins tax breaks and payments in lieu of taxes from communities that want the company to place certain assets or hire extra employees in their areas.

So who is on the tax dole is far more complicated than the author would have us believe.

The argument that EPB somehow facilitates porn with tax dollars is also patently false. In fact, it's a straw argument commonly used by cable and telco lobbyists in order to create division within a community against a competitor they honestly cannot match in service quality or features. In fact, it is a safe bet local residents pay far more for this programming than its wholesale "cost" so you could also say porn protects the interests of local ratepayers by helping EPB pay off its bonds even quicker than they could without it.

What always amuses me is those conservatives that are so quick to condemn government involvement in virtually anything are also often the same busybodies that want the government to regulate what one can and cannot do in their private lives.

Anyone offended by this programming can handle it the same way Comcast and AT&T customers manage it -- by calling their provider and asking that it be blocked from their televisions.

I do not want you or I having arbitrary authority to determine what programming is appropriate for anyone other than myself. Otherwise, I might want EWTN off cable because it promotes "the cult of the Vatican," or TBN must go because there were questions about its finances and integrity. Fox News and MSNBC both need to be removed because they air opinion masquerading as news. Where does it stop? The answer is, it doesn't.

Freedom means that if you object to the programming, services, or business model of EPB Fiber, I support your right to not subscribe 100%.

March 19, 2013 at 6:16 p.m.
fairmon said...

Lr103 said....

fairmon, not that anyone could ever convince you, but TVA and EPB employees aren't paid with taxpayer dollars.

I reviewed all my post and did not see where I said tax payers paid EPB or TVA employees. TVA charges EPB and other utilities enough to pay for their power generation operations and the EPB charges enough to pay the TVA and EPB expenses. EPB, thanks to some far sighted folks developing a charter that prevents city and county politicians from mucking with it too much is a top flight operation with some feather bedding and salary creep but overall a good operation.

I did say those critical should advocate privatizing TVA and EPB. EPB would be a mistake. The TVA is a different story. A $12,000 bonus to every employee with six figure salaries out the wha-who plus benefits second to none and laxness in productive use of work time. The TVA is subsidized for activities other than power generation.

March 19, 2013 at 11:54 p.m.
fairmon said...

There is no economic justification for prohibiting the EPB Internet service from offering an equal or better menu than privately owned services. Porn video profits recover a lot of cost and enable EPB to offer competitive rates with better service. No one is required to participate and they are apparently pay for view and not part of the monthly subscription fee.

March 20, 2013 at 12:10 a.m.
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