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Cable Viewers Get A Whole Lot More Than They Paid For In S.F.

Thu., Feb. 12, 1998

Cable TV has a dirty little secret in San Francisco.

Some early risers have gotten an extra jolt with their morning coffee in recent days when they’ve turned on their TV sets.

In addition to the usual fare of news reports, weather updates and talk shows, they found an educational program of another sort - pornography.

Thanks to a glitch in the TCI cable computer system - one that hurriedly was fixed Tuesday - soft-core pornographic videos have been shown for about 40 minutes every morning since Feb. 1 free of charge on a pay-per-view preview channel.

Rumors of the X-rated access on Channel 27 spread like wildfire through locker rooms and in bar stool conversations unbeknownst to cable officials, who were unaware that the computer scrambler was turning itself off too soon.

As a result, the explicit sex scenes being sent via satellite from the Adam and Eve network spilled unscrambled onto TV screens across the city, said Andrew Johnson, spokesman for TCI cable.

From 5:20 a.m. to 6 a.m., anyone clicking through the cable stations could find scenes on Channel 27 of nude men and women engaged in explicit sex acts, interrupted with occasional advertisements for the cable system’s two adult entertainment pay-per-view channels and phone sex operators.

Channel 27 is listed as Sneak Prevue, which shows movie previews from 6 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. From 6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. it’s TCI-SF. And it’s the adult entertainment Adam and Eve channel from 10:30 p.m. to 6 a.m. - the only hours during which the Federal Communications Commission allows such programming.

When asked about the libidinous broadcasts Tuesday, Johnson insisted they had not been shown intentionally and added that computer experts were working to correct the problem.

“That is not something that is supposed to be on TV at any time in the clear,” Johnson said, referring to channels that are openly accessible to all cable viewers.

Hours later, he said a computer glitch had been found and fixed.

Although Johnson said the problem began Feb. 1, some viewers said they had seen the same programming in the same time slot in January.

Regardless, Johnson said he was shocked that TCI had not received a single call or complaint about the error until contacted by a reporter Tuesday.

“There is nothing that will light up our phones faster than a failure of our scrambling system that might show some adult programming in the clear,” he said.

When a sexually charged film was shown on the community access channel in 1996, calls flooded the phone lines 35 seconds after it had started, he said.

Tags: television

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