Editorial: Ma Bell, Madam

Socially responsive investors question AT&T's trafficking in hardcore smut.
Elsewhere in this issue, writer Christine J. Gardner documents the destructive effects of Internet pornography on the lives of pastors and their families (see "Tangled in the Worst of the Web," p. 42). While the Internet is the most accessible (and often free) form of pornography, cable television also remains an important cog in the pornographic machine.

It is troubling enough that hundreds of local cable-television providers apparently consider pornography channels just as normal as CNN. Now the telecommunications giant AT&T, known for so many years as Ma Bell, has decided to become Madam Bell by offering the Hot Network—which prides itself on being more explicit than the Playboy Channel—as a pay-per-view option on its cable operations (AT&T Broadband).

A significant coalition of religious investors has decided to hold AT&T accountable for its programming choices. The coalition, led by Mennonite Mutual Aid, includes representatives of the United Methodist Church, Christian Brothers Investment Services, Church of the Brethren, the Reformed Church in America, and the Sisters of Saint Joseph. This coalition controls 1.6 million shares of AT&T stock.

In December the coalition filed a proxy resolution that would require AT&T to report to all its shareholders by May on its rationale and justification for peddling porn to its cable customers. We are grateful for this initiative. We hope AT&T will be more responsive to this effort than it was in July 2000, when 30 religious investing groups asked AT&T to reconsider its decision to carry the Hot Network.

Rob Stoddard, AT&T Broadband's senior vice president for public relations, responded with a letter that began courteously but soon devolved into a pedantic lecture on the differences ...

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Editorial: Ma Bell, Madam
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