- The Washington Times - Friday, May 25, 2007

ATLANTA (AP) — A media watchdog group is criticizing Delta Air Lines for making the graphic HBO series “Rome” and other bawdy shows available for in-flight viewing after a passenger complained that children could see nudity and sex scenes.

Billy Ford, vice president of a Georgia chemical company, said the shows were aired on overhead movie screens during a May 6 flight from Atlanta to Duesseldorf, Germany. He complained after watching three scenes of nudity or sex on “Rome” and another on “Da Ali G Show.”

“I was really upset,” said Mr. Ford, 46, of Acworth, about 35 miles northwest of Atlanta. “I demanded to see the captain.”

Delta officials say the programs were intended as an option for viewing on private screens in the back of the airplane’s seat and were shown on the public overhead screens by mistake.

“As soon as our flight attendants became aware it was being shown, it was cut off and we made an immediate apology to passengers,” said Betsy Talton, a spokeswoman for Atlanta-based Delta.

That’s not enough for Mr. Ford and Morality in Media, a New York-based group that targets pornography and other entertainment deemed indecent.

They say sexually explicit programs should not be allowed even on the personal screens because neighboring passengers are exposed to the images, regardless of whether they want to be.

An airplane “is a public place,” group President Robert Peters said. “It’s not a private home, where some adult pays extra money to bring HBO into their home.”

Mr. Peters said children could order the adult-themed programming if they are seated away from their parents or if the adults are sleeping or not paying attention. They also could be exposed to them by neighbors.

“I often find myself watching someone else’s screen,” he said. “I typically read and write when I fly, but you get bored, you get tired and instead of turning on your own television, you look around.”

The HBO programming is part of a feature rolled out on Delta flights this month. It’s available on intercontinental flights and in “business elite” cabins on other flights.

Miss Talton said Delta has since put programming intended for the in-seat screens on a different channel than traditional in-flight movies, lessening the likelihood of a similar mistake.

She said passengers, including parents, may request that access to the on-demand programming be shut off to their seats, and that customers who request to be moved away from someone watching a program that offends them will be accommodated when possible.

Billed by HBO as “a richly layered look at history and the building of an empire,” the show “Rome” depicts violence, nudity and sex scenes that producers say accurately depict life in the city in the time of Julius Caesar.

“Da Ali G Show” is less graphic, but includes the racy humor that Sasha Baron Cohen made famous in “Borat,” last summer’s blockbuster comedy.

Jeff Cusson, a spokesman for HBO, declined to comment directly on Delta’s policy of making the shows available on the private screens. But he said the network agrees with the decision to pull the shows off of overhead screens.

“We don’t allow mature HBO programming to be viewed in a public forum anywhere,” Mr. Cusson said. “It’s a personal viewing choice.”

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