LodgeNet Reponds to Antiporn Campaign

Q Boyer
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — LodgeNet answered criticism Thursday from antiporn groups pressuring the company to drop adult content from its pay-per-view-offerings in hotels across the country.

With the Cincinnati-based Citizens for Community Values and local South Dakota activists engaged in a full-scale public relations offensive against the company, LodgeNet responded by asserting that the adult content it distributes is perfectly legal, and their critics merely seek to impose their moral vision upon the rest of the world.

The reason that the Justice Department has declined to prosecute companies like LodgeNet for distributing adult content, the company said in its statement, is that such content is legal, despite what the CCV might say.

"CCV confuses its own taste with what the law allows," LodgeNet stated in its release. "CCV and its supporters apparently believe that they have the right to threaten to use the law to deprive others of their preferred programming choices. As Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy has noted, 'self-assurance has always been the hallmark of a censor.' In this matter, CCV and its supporters are very self-assured indeed that they are in the best position to make programming choices for everyone else. However, that is not how our system works."

In its statement the company also noted that U.S. courts have substantially limited the government’s ability to dictate taste and decency standards.

"The genius of our constitutional system is that it supports individual choice over government coercion," LodgeNet said. "The law upholds the ability of individuals to make their own choices, without interference by outside groups. As the Supreme Court recently noted, the Constitution says that 'these judgments are for the individual to make, not for the Government to decree, even with the mandate or approval of a majority.'"

In its statement, LodgeNet conceded that the "CCV correctly refers to Miller v. California as the Supreme Court case that established the test for obscenity," but asserted that the group has misrepresented the standard.

"[T]hey fail to disclose that the Miller test, in practice, has been confined to a very limited subset of extreme materials, none of which has ever been made available by LodgeNet," LodgeNet stated in its release.

CCV President Phil Burress said he believes that some of the movies offered by LodgeNet are prosecutable under federal obscenity law, and his group merely is trying to hold the company accountable.

“They’re selling hardcore pornography in all 50 states — in fact in most cities, in most towns across America,” Burress stated at a press conference this week. “That makes their business our business.”

Bob Navarro, a former police detective hired by the CCV, said that he documented and recorded three videos during a hotel stay in Pasadena, Calif., last month, adding that the movies were hardcore films that “left absolutely nothing to the imagination.” Navarro added that he was shocked to see videos typically only available through “sleazy adult businesses,” available in hotel rooms.

Burress, citing Focus on the Family media analyst Daniel Weiss, claimed that more than 50 percent of LodgeNet’s revenue comes from the PPV sale of adult titles — a claim disputed by LodgeNet.

Ann Parker, LodgeNet’s director of corporate communications, told the AP Thursday that Burress’ claim was incorrect, but declined to provide a more accurate estimate.

The CCV, along with the activist group South Dakota Family Policy Council (SDFPC), have been stepping up the pressure on LodgeNet through a multifront public relations campaign that includes highway billboard advertising, radio spots and the website TruthAboutLodgeNet.com.

On TruthAboutLodgeNet.com, the group has documented through screen captures a list of adult video titles, promotional images and descriptive text used by LodgeNet for their in-room PPV offerings.

“The movie titles and descriptions presented as evidence on the following page are graphic and not appropriate for children, all of which are easily available free of charge to anyone in a hotel room with as few as three or four clicks of a remote control,” states a warning page that precedes the “evidence” documented on TruthAboutLodgeNet.com.

None of the screenshots on the TruthAboutLodgeNet.com contain any nudity. Most of the listings include images of scantily-clad women and contain provocative text descriptions, but there is no profanity or explicit descriptions of sex acts.

Burress said that if he is unable to get federal prosecutors to target LodgeNet, he will lobby prosecutors in Ohio and other states to go after the company for violating state obscenity laws.

Parker was unavailable for comment as of press time for this article, and other LodgeNet officials declined to comment.