RALEIGH, N.C. — Prompted by parents' complaints about sex and violence in in-flight movies, two congressmen introduced legislation yesterday calling for airlines to create kid-friendly zones on planes to shield them from violent images.
''The airlines have chosen to put our children in a situation that I don't feel comfortable with,'' said Rep. Heath Shuler, a North Carolina Democrat.
He and Republican Rep. Walter Jones, also from North Carolina, call their proposal the Family Friendly Flights Act.
''This legislation will be one avenue to help parents take back their right to determine the appropriateness of the content to which their children are exposed,'' Jones said in a statement.
The bill calls for the creation of sections on commercial flights where there would not be any publicly viewable movie screens. It would still allow airlines to show the movies they choose on big screens in other sections, or on individual seatback screens.
''How do you tell a 4-, 5-, 6-, 7-, 8-year-old, 'Don't look at the screen,' when it's basically all over the cabin?'' Shuler asked.
One of the parents who complained to Shuler was Katie Kelley, who said she was on a plane last February when an R-rated movie with ''a lot of nudity'' was shown. She said she was traveling without her children, ages 4 and 7, but was still bothered by the situation.
Kelley said she was not satisfied with the airline's response to her complaint, even though she was told the movie should have not been shown as it was.
''My point was that children can't make that decision if they're on an airplane and the scenes are before them,'' said Kelley, adding that she also took issue with violent films shown on airlines. ''They are naturally drawn to the screen.''
It's up to the airlines to determine which movies to show, said David Castelveter, spokesman for the Air Transport Association, a trade group.
Andrew Whalen, a Shuler spokesman, says the bill is aimed at getting airlines to self-regulate for violence in movies because of what he termed medical evidence showing such images can harm children.
Virgin America already offers kid-friendly features that include the ability for parents to limit showings to G-rated movies and content at every seat, said spokeswoman Abby Lunardini.
Jesse Kalisher, a 45-year-old photographer from Chapel Hill, also has lobbied airlines to self-regulate movie content for violence and created a Web site, www.kidsafefilms.org.
Kalisher said he got involved after ''King Kong'' was shown on a flight, though his own two youngsters were sleeping at the time.
''Parents were trying to protect their children from seeing images that were really gruesome,'' he said. ''The whole thing is completely inappropriate for kids. This isn't a moral viewpoint or a religious viewpoint. It's a medical viewpoint.''
During a congressional hearing on violence on television last June, Peter Liguori, president of entertainment for Fox Broadcasting Co., disputed the claim that there was a "causal link" between television violence and violence in young people. "Without a causal link, we cannot justify imposing content limits on our media," he told the meeting of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.