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Posted 24 Feb 2001   For week ended October 27, 2000
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Sent on Mormon-News: 23Oct00

Summarized by Kent Larsen

How Utah Video Store Pornography Prosecution Led to Criticism of Marriott Corp.

PROVO, UTAH -- The prosecution of a Utah county video store chain here has exposed the involvement in the industry of a number of large corporations, either for producing and distributing the videos, as companies like AT&T, TimeWarner, and General Motors do, or for providing access to the films, like hotel companies Hilton Hotels and Marriott Corp. Marriott has come under criticism especially because it was founded by Mormon J. Willard Marriott, Sr., and is even now run by his son, LDS Church member J. Willard Marriott, Jr.

A New York Times article yesterday makes the connection, between the prosecution of Larry W. Peterman's video store chain and the size and scope of the pornography business. Peterman's lawyer, LDS Church member Rany Spencer, decided to investigate the pervasiveness of pornography in Utah county as part of Peterman's defense. Spencer sent an investigator to Provo's Marriott hotel to find out about the sex films that could be obtained at the hotel. His investigators also obtained records of how much Utah county residents were using cable and satellite television to see pornography. To Spencer's shock, they discovered that residents of Utah county bought more pornography per capita than those elsewhere.

Spencer then used that argument in the defense of his client. Why, he argued, should the county prosecute a lone, small video store when some of the largest companies in the country were selling the same thing to county residents? "I despise this stuff -- some of it is really raunchy," he says. "But the fact is that an awful lot of people here in Utah County are paying to look at porn. What that says to me is that we're normal."

What companies are involved? Spencer's investigators and reports from market research firms indicate that pornography is a $10 billion industry in the US alone, according to Forrester Research of Cambridge, Massachusetts. The largest company is not even known for pornography, but for selling cars. General Motors Corp.'s DirecTV subsidiary sells nearly $200 million a year of pay-per-view sex films, according to industry estimates not disputed by GM.

Other companies involved, including EchoStar Communications, the No.2 satellite provider, AT&T Corp., by offering the HotNetwork service through its cable service, Liberty Media, Marriott International, the Hilton, On Command, LodgeNet Entertainment and News Corp., all have major stakes in pornography, but these stakes are not mentioned in annual reports, except in the vaguest ways. An AT&T executive explains, "How can we? It's the crazy aunt in the attic. Everyone knows she's there, but you can't say anything about it."

According to an Associated Press article, Marriott Corp., has come under criticism for providing pornographic videos in its hotels, especially in the wake of Omni Hotels decision to pull the pay-per-view pornography from its 15,000 rooms. According to Omni, it will loose $1.8 million a year from its decision, but it got 50,000 letters of thanks from those happy with its decision.

For Marriott, the decision is both more costly and more complex. With 300,000 hotel rooms, such a move would cost Marriott in excess of $30 million. But Marriott may not be able to make the change, even if it wants to. Marriott franchises its hotels, and may not be able to legally remove the services because of its contractual obligations to those that paid to be part of the chain.


Profits allow pornography to doff its plain brown wrapper
Ft Worth TX Star-Telegram (New York Times) 22Oct00 B4
By Timothy Egan: N.Y. Times News Service

Provo, Utah: he said.
St Louis Post (AP) 22Oct00 B2
Associated Press


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