In-Flight HBO Programming, Nudity Draws Complaints

Morality in Media, an interfaith organization that fights obscenity in media, recently criticized Delta Airlines over questionable content that they are beginning to show on their flights.

The complaint arose from a letter they received on May 17 from an unidentified passenger from Atlanta who described how the airline had shown the HBO series "Rome," with scenes of nudity and sex, during his flight.

Although the programming was meant to be shown only on "private" screens, the media watchdog is arguing that these screens are not actually "private."

"When I fly, I often find myself watching programming that is exhibited on a screen controlled by a passenger seated adjacent to me or in a row ahead of me," explained Robert Peters, president of Morality in Media, in a statement. "These screens, like laptop computers or cell phone screens, are 'private' only in the sense that each passenger controls the programming.

"While it is understandable that commercial airlines want to maximize each passenger's choice when it comes to viewing programming on 'private' screens, it should also be understood that other passengers sitting nearby are, for all practical purposes, a captive audience."

The concern first arose during in-flight programming of a Delta flight which previewed the show "Rome" on overhead screens in the aisle. The Atlanta passenger complained to the flight crew, which informed him that the program was only meant to be shown on private screens. They then went on to say that the sexually explicit material was edited down to three seconds or less and that any passengers uncomfortable with the material would be moved to new seats.

The Morality in Media president argues that this is not going to alleviate problems, however,as three seconds is still too long for a sex scene and moving to another seat is not always going to solve the problem.

He compared the situation to the past Janet Jackson Super Bowl controversy in which she exposed one of her breasts.

"Reportedly, Delta Airlines' solution to this dilemma is to edit nudity or explicit sex to three seconds or less," added Peters. "To put that in perspective Janet Jackson's breast was exposed for only 19/32 of a second on CBS TV during the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show.

"Or, take a watch with a second hand. Count along (one, two, three), and then ask yourself, 'What parent would permit a child to (repeatedly) view explicit sex for two or three seconds?'"

Peters also noted a list of negative reviews for "Rome" that he feels illustrates the content in the program.

One entry from the San Francisco Chronicle read: "The egregious sex and the zeal for bloody, sharp-knifed close combat, should remind everyone that this is HBO…. Rome is full of … bloody fights and provocative sexual encounters."

Delta has been featuring HBO programming since May 1 in an effort to offer a wide variety of entertainment to its passengers. Available shows include "Entourage," "The Sopranos," and other HBO original series. About 40-50 hours worth of programming is available on demand.