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Activists target hotel porn

Lodging industry says films a choice, a business matter

NEW YORK -- Pornographic movies now seem nearly as pervasive in America's hotel rooms as tiny shampoo bottles, and the lodging industry shows little concern as conservative activists rev up a campaign aimed at triggering a federal crackdown.

A coalition of 13 conservative groups -- including the Family Research Council and Concerned Women for America -- took out full-page ads in some editions of USA Today earlier this month urging the Justice Department and FBI to investigate whether some of the pay-per-view movies widely available in hotels violate federal and state obscenity laws.

The coalition also is trying to draw attention to CleanHotels.com, a directory of hotels and motels nationwide that pledge to exclude adult offerings from their in-room entertainment service.

Though porn is now cheaply and readily accessible on the Internet and through other outlets, the activists chose to target the hotel industry in part because of the well-known brands of corporations that cater to family vacationers as well as business travelers.

``These are places that you take your family -- these are respectable institutions," said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council. ``Anything that brings porn into the mainstream is a concern. It just desensitizes people."

Precise statistics on in-room adult entertainment are difficult to find. By some estimates, adult movies are available in roughly 40 percent of the nation's hotels, representing more than 1.5 million rooms. Industry analysts suggest that these adult offerings generate 60 percent to 80 percent of total in-room entertainment revenue -- several hundred million dollars a year.

The recent newspaper ad mentioned no hotel companies by name because of legal concerns, but it did target the two major suppliers of in-room adult movies, LodgeNet, based in South Dakota, and Denver-based OnCommand, a subsidiary of Liberty Media Corp. The ad accused both companies of distributing hardcore pornography to their hotel clients .

Spokespeople for two of the biggest hotel chains, Hilton and Marriott, defended the policies that make adult movies widely available at their affiliated hotels.

Both Kathy Shepard of Hilton and Roger Conner of Marriott said the bulk of their hotels are operated by franchise-holders who make their own decisions about in-room programming.

``Really ultraconservative groups try to target the hotels in their zest to eliminate porn," Shepard said. ``In their zest to have their personal morals prevail, they're eliminating choice for others."

Conner said none of the programming offered by Marriott is illegal, and he depicted adult movies as a standard part of today's hotel business.

``In-room movies are a revenue stream," he said. ``This is a business matter."

The leader of the campaign against in-room porn is Phil Burress, who heads Cincinnati-based Citizens for Community Values .

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