Does Northwestel Need to Hawk Porn?


Just over two years ago Telus was badgered by the Vancouver Catholic community into removing themselves from the pornographic media industry. Just three weeks earlier, the telecommunications company had begun to offer mobile porn to customers: 3 bucks for a pic, 4 bucks for a video clip.

A massive ad placed by the church in BC Catholic, a weekly newspaper, decried Telus’ attempt to, “[hitch] its financial future to the abuse-ridden and pain-filled pornography industry.”

Odd, then, how every other major telecommunications company in Canada manages to continue to operate as cornerstone distributors of pornography.

Bell, Shaw, Vidéotron, and Cogeco all hawk volumes of explicit pornography via cable and satellite to their subscribers.

Locally, Northwestel offers porn on-demand, as a pay-per-view service, and as subscriptions to both the Playboy and Hustler channels.

At first blush, you might think that Northwestel innocently believes it’s important that Northerners have easy access to quality programs like Cum Stained Casting Couch.

But really, setting moral arguments aside for a moment, hawking porn just makes good business sense.

Just three years ago, pay-per-view (PPV) and video-on-demand (VOD) porn generated over $1 billion in revenues for cable companies, a 15% increase over 2005. With that growth rate cable and satellite television operators are definitely raking it in these days.

VOD is a particularly interesting technological evolution in the cable and satellite television industry that has significantly improved porn’s business model.

Rather than adhere to a broadcast schedule set by a network, VOD enables cable and satellite operators to locally host movies and television programs on their own servers.

So using their cable or satellite receivers, viewers can just come and get it (or vice versa, in the case of porn).

It’s been around for about a decade, but really only took off about 5 years ago when operators discovered they could actually recoup their hefty investment costs in the fledgling service by featuring porn content.

On industry average today, consumers buy an equivalent number of VOD porn titles to mainstream Hollywood titles. And with VOD porn, margins are much higher: up to 80% of the $10 to $15 rental fee.

In other words, to support its VOD service, the North’s telecommunications provider has servers stuffed full of porn. And they’re sharing it. And they’re making a killing off of it.

It’s worth noting at this point that contemporary porn is not the stuff that made Playboy a household name.

The porn of the 21st Century is as violent as it is sexual. Anal penetration is now a standard act. Women–who are generally under the age of 20–are hit, slapped, strangled, bound, and gagged. They are commonly forced into abusive situations involving multiple simultaneous partners.

Despite the fact that most scenes are edited down to 15 or 20 minutes in length, during the shoot these women are forced to endure multi-hour marathon sessions of sexual abuse so violent that they often cannot carry themselves off of the set.

In an interview just after she quit the industry two years ago, former porn star Jersey Jaxin described her on-set experiences with comments like: “You get ripped. Your insides can come out of you.”

Oddly, in this age of organic food, protected animal species and sweatshop activism, we seem okay with the fact that a new film featuring acts of teenage sodomy, rape, and abuse is produced every 39 minutes in the US alone.

There is very little public social response to the sufferings of the women who appear in porn. Instead we condone the business activities of companies like Northwestel that profit from it.

So one has to ask: do Canada’s telecommunications carriers really need revenue that is generated through an industry that promotes the abuse, degradation, and humiliation of girls and women?

Or, on a more human level: how do employees of companies like Northwestel feel knowing that a piece of their paycheque comes from a form of media that promotes violence against women?

Telus may be kicking themselves for having so positively responded to their public flagellation at the hands of the Catholic Church: the mobile porn industry has since blossomed to become a multi-billion dollar industry.

But they can at least claim the moral high-ground, knowing that they are not contributing to a media industry  that seems hell-bent on degrading women back to a level not seen in centuries.

But it leaves one to wonder: if Telus can flourish as a telecommunications company without selling porn, why can’t Canada’s other infrastructure providers, like Northwestel?

Originally  published in the Yukon News on Friday, July 10, 2009.

13 thoughts on “Does Northwestel Need to Hawk Porn?


  1. People still pay for porn? How quaint.

    That said, and all condemnation of the porn industry aside, I’d really rather not have the carriers deciding for me when it comes to the appropriateness of content. VOD/PPV is one thing, but I can see that sort of policy creeping towards content filtering, which is a very slippery slope.

  2. A slippery slope indeed. At what point do we become moral censors of life in general and is that right? The porn that NorthwesTel is distributing is legal, and the profit that they make from it helps keep the costs of the channels I watch down – I watch them on StarChoice but the same economic forces work there. Nobody forces women to be prostitutes or porn actresses – there are other options.

  3. I think the point that the porn sold on VOD is legal is exactly what the problem is…. as Andrew mentioned it’s not regulated at all, except that all porn stars must be the minimum age of 18. Murray, no one may be forcing these women to be porn stars, but once that choice is made, it’s the bed they have to lie in for the rest of their life. While it’s easy for you and I to say there are other options, sometimes alternative choices aren’t clear, easy or available.

  4. Re: Does Northwestel need to hawk porn?

    I found this article offensive on so many levels. The author seems to be coming across as being offended by Northwestel’s lack of morals for offering its customers porn? Really?

    As a woman I find it offensive that a man would have the audacity to write a letter telling me I should be offended by porn. These girls clearly choose to do what they do. I’m sure their parents don’t like it, but how is it anyone else’s business?

    Nobody forces them to do it, they make the choice to go in to work just like everyone else and is that not the definition of women’s rights? The right to choose? The right to not be suppressed by society, by a man? How dare he, a man, tell me what is or isn’t immoral, if I so choose to do that with my body.

    Northwestel, as a company, is only offering what its customer want. I’ve never personally seen it advertised, or pushed in my face. It’s there, yes, I’ve watched it. I have kids in my home and I’m appreciative that Northwestel has given me the tools to block those channels and those channel titles from my kids.

    Maybe if he is so offended due to being so narrow minded he should just, I don’t know, not watch it! For someone who’s on such a moral high ground that he tells me how to feel about it as a woman, he seems to know an awful lot about what goes on in these videos, in the industry.

    Just research? Hardly. If he’s so concerned with the well-being of these women then maybe he should exert his efforts elsewhere as opposed to wasting his time making the ludicrous suggestion that Northwestel’s employees support what he “claims” goes on in pornography.

    I’m a woman, and I don’t find porn “degrading” in the least – it’s liberating. If a woman chooses that for herself then all the power to her. This author has no right to even suggest to me how I should feel about this issue and certainly has no right to suggest to me that I should have animosity towards Northwestel or its employees.

    • Jessica, thanks for your comment. I have just a few points to make.

      You mention a few times that I have told you to be “offended by porn.” I did no such thing in this column.

      You mention that I’ve told you “what is or isn’t immoral.” Again, I did no such thing in this column.

      You state that I suggest you feel “animosity towards Northwestel or its employees.” Again, I did no such thing. I’m not suggesting anyone feel anything at all towards those people or that company. And I certainly didn’t suggest that Northwestel’s employees support the company’s relationship to porn.

      On both points, I was merely wondering how Northwestel’s employees feel about working for a company that has recently transformed from a telecommunications provider to a media sales agent of explicit material. I would guess that most Northwestel employees hadn’t even recognized this change to have occurred.

  5. …..I might also add, you are taking one example you found in this amazingly large/worldwide industry…

    It might not be a “Dream Job” per say for most folks, but they are HARDLY forced to perform these acts.. these women AND Men (the gay porn industry is also HUGE..) make a choice every day to do what they do.. and some of them LOVE THEIR JOBS!!!

    I wonder if during all your “research” Andrew… did you happen to come across the documentary, “9 to 5: Days in Porn” ?

    This feature tells the stories of about 5 different people/couples who are currently active in the Porn industry.. some stories are sad.. others are inspiring.. the end result is, they all are doing what they do by choice….

    I recommend you take a look…. not only does it tell tales of the typical XXX pornos.. but also speaks to those to take an artistic view of what they do…

    …I quite liked it…possibly you might too!

    • Nicole, thanks for your comment. I’ll certainly look up and review the documentary you mention, as I have several others.

      There’s no doubt that many porn performers enjoy their work. Through my research I have made contact with independent performers who produce media out of pure joy for their craft. I’ll be sharing their insights in an upcoming column.

      However, the fact remains that the vast majority of porn is produced in controlled and abusive environments that are very difficult to escape from. Women enter the industry for a variety of reasons, and some women, particularly from eastern European countries, are forced in. Some women are even sold in by their destitute families.

      Once in the sector of the industry that is corporately-controlled and oriented towards mass production, those women become commodities that are controlled through a combination of narcotics, emotional abuse, and physical abuse. Hundreds of women, in fact, have found that their only escape from the pornography industry is suicide, whilst dozens more when seeking escape have been murdered.

      While, as you point out, I cited just one example, my research has revealed dozens more. That just happened to be the one I deemed most palatable for my target audience to get my point across. This is the difficulty of exploring this subject matter in a community newspaper: how to communicate the shocking truth without forcing readers to experience the stomach-churning details.

  6. Hey, for someone who seems to have a bug up their a$$ about NorthwesTel, you obviously liked them enough to work for them. Is that not the definition of a hypocrite?

    • Jessica (and Mike), just to clarify: I resigned from Northwestel in 2003, after a very brief period of employment. And I disagree with your point: I don’t believe that employment with a company means you can’t criticize that company. What an absolutely ridiculous notion.

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