Porn, Accidentally Shown

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You're sitting in your living room with the grandparents, settling in to watch the evening news, when suddenly, up there on the TV, hardcore porn! Wow! Embarrassing! Where did that come from? You rush to turn the set off.

This is the phenomenon of accidental porn. Try as we might as a species to maintain a veneer of decorous behavior in public settings, sex finds a way in. By accident, of course. Porno pictures suddenly appear in powerpoint presentations. Late night TV movies get mysteriously replaced by x-rated skin flicks. Topless shots flash onto the screen during high school assemblies.

Below we review some highlights from over fifty years of porn, accidentally shown.

Late Night Palm Springs

October 1968: Viewers who tuned in to watch the late, late movie on Palm Spring's KPLM-TV (now KESQ) expected to see an old, classic movie. Instead they saw "nude men and women cavorting across their screens." 

The errant broadcast was traced to a 25-year-old television engineer, Allen Veatch, who had been alone in the studio and had played an x-rated videotape on a monitor, thinking he was the only one able to see it. Instead, it was streaming live on air. As soon as he realized what was happening (about fifteen minutes into the movie), Veatch stopped the broadcast and then burned the videotape.

Veatch was fired and fined $500, but he avoided a federal felony charge of broadcasting obscene material, which could have resulted in two years in prison, although authorities had initially considered this. [San Mateo Times, 10/31/1968]

Prison Movie Night

July 1972: During the weekly film program for inmates at Utah State Prison, guards accidentally showed an x-rated movie, having not realized initially that it was "that kind" of film. Warden John Turner told reporters, "Because of obvious security reasons we permitted the inmates to see the remainder of the film rather than to stop it after it already had started." [Provo Daily Herald, 7/7/1972]

Children's Hour?

June 1988: On New York City's WNYC, a Friday afternoon broadcast of the series "Video Music Box" included what was supposed to be a segment warning about teenage pregnancy and drug abuse. Instead, a video of a topless woman was shown. Mayor Ed Koch told reporters that no one had been able to figure out how the racy footage had made its way into the pre-recorded program. He added, "They don't allow this kind of nudity for adults. They would not intentionally put this show on a children's hour." [Observer-Reporter, 6/5/1988]

Not The Life of Jesus

December 2003: Father Frithjof Schwesig distributed what he thought was a movie about the life of Jesus to his parishioners in the German village of Lampolshausen. Instead, it turned out to be a xxx-rated film. This provoked a reaction from "five to seven people" who contacted the vicar, suspecting he had given them the wrong film. The mix-up was traced back to a switch that had occurred at a copying factory. The vicar noted, "God moves in mysterious ways. The people who ordered porn now have videos about Jesus." [cnn.com, 12/5/2003]

Just Not Cricket

April 2007: Following the broadcast of the science fiction drama Life on Mars, subscribers to Smallworld Cable in Scotland expected to see the Ten O'Clock News and cricket highlights on BBC One. Instead they saw a "lesbian orgy and a naked woman dancing through a wood." Twenty viewers complained. The cable company apologized, attributing the mix-up to "a technical fault that happened as we carried out work to upgrade our systems." The technical glitch had resulted in some viewers receiving the x-rated Climax3 channel for two hours instead of BBC One. [London Times, 4/7/2007]

Powerpoint Bonus

September 2010: During a high school assembly at Norwin High School, east of Pittsburgh, 400 seniors were being shown a powerpoint presentation about the importance of donating blood, when suddenly they also got to see some gay pornography. One student later said, "It just popped up all of the sudden. We were like, oh my God, are you serious?"

The pictures appeared after a Central Blood Bank employee plugged his personal flash drive into the computer. When he realized what had happened, he immediately removed the drive, and then continued with his presentation. He was subsequently suspended. The presentation for the junior class was cancelled. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/11/2010]

Rosa Parks, The Alternate Ending

May 2012: A Social Studies teacher at Bell Middle School in Golden, Colorado had arranged for his class to watch a documentary about Rosa Parks while he was away. A substitute teacher played the tape, but overlooked the instructions to stop it at a certain point and played it until the documentary ended, at which point footage of a naked woman suddenly appeared on the screen. The substitute immediately turned off the film. School authorities said they were investigating the incident, but hadn't decided on disciplinary measures. [9news.com, 5/22/2012]

Beijing Surprise

July 2013: Commuters at a train station in Beijing were surprised when scenes from an x-rated movie "The Forbidden Legend: Sex and Chopsticks" began playing on an outdoor advertising screen. Investigation revealed that the broadcast was caused by a technician who had been hired to carry out maintenance on the screen. He had begun watching the film on his computer, not realizing that his computer was connected to the screen. [upi.com, 7/2/2013]

Unfortunate Funerary Tribute

January 2016: Hundreds had gathered at Thornhill Crematorium in Cardiff, Wales for the funeral service of a father and son killed in a car crash on New Year's Eve. Four television screens began showing a tribute to the father, but on one of the screens hardcore pornography displayed instead of the tribute. The father-in-law rushed forward, shouting, "Turn it off! Turn it off!" The crematorium immediately apologized for the mix-up, attributing it to "some kind of electronic accident," theorizing that the newly installed "Smart TV" screen had somehow picked up the inappropriate content via Bluetooth or a wi-fi network. [The Telegraph, 1/28/2016]