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The English Cable Network (ECN) is a cable news network in England which is the country's primarily cable network, and a subsidiary of the English Cable Corporation, which owns various subsidiaries of the networks. ECN, without any direct cable news competitor beyond networks with smaller footprints such as London Cable News or Welsh News Services, directly competes with broadcast services such as English Tele-Vision (ETV) or CNN International (INN beginning in 2011).
The ECN was started as the first major cable network in England in 1979, offering 24-hour a day broadcasts of a variety of topics. Unlike ETV or its three secondary networks (ETV2, ETV3, or NETV), ECN was not initially subjected to broadcast censorship laws (until the Obscenity on Television Act was passed in 1992), and much of its early popularity stemmed from its ability to show adult entertainment late at night while broadcasting American soap operas previously unseen in England during daytime hours. As it was a fee-for-use service, it was not governed under the Decency of Public Entertainment Act of 1974 or the Public Broadcast Office's oversight.
ECN's success was finally realized by the English government in 1984, when it ran what was seen as biased pro-Tory coverage of the May 1st general election that was watched by a then-stunning figure of 24% of English television owners. ECN's rocket-like rise to prominence coincided with the import of cable-compatible American televisions in England in the 1980's and the allure of the "pirate channel" which maintained an almost defiant, pro-consumer viewpoint.
ECN was left untouched by censorship laws for much of the 1980's as Stephen Norrington remembered the disastrous attempts of both Charles Morgan and Donald Sutcliffe to take on the pornography industry in the 1960's and the decline in English television viewership in the 1970's due to the perceived draconian Conservative legislation against "improper" broadcasts. The proliferation of American channels in England due to competing cable interests led to ECN's eventual decline as the monopolistic controller of the cable market, as tamer American films, noted for their popularity, were released censorship-free in England for the first time.
The formation of the English Cable Corporation came in 1992 when ECN, desperate for support within the English government it had once denounced, sought backing from the Tories to apply pressure on American cable networks. The Cleese government passed a law making cable content adhere to the same standards as the PBO's radio and broadcast TV authority, and in 1993 broke up the ECN into several focused channels. As a result, ECLive became a cable entertainment channel, ECSport (now ESPN London) became the sports channel, and ECKnowledge became a public-access cable outlet, with ECN being the general brand and the specific news and political commentary network.