TV Pulls Shuttle Sensitive Material

space shuttle columbia graphic AP

Television networks and advertisers quickly yanked material from the air to avoid appearing insensitive after Saturday's disintegration of the space shuttle Columbia.

They included a commercial for the Hewlett-Packard Co. bragging about its ability to get astronauts home safely, and a 1998 Bruce Willis movie that depicts a space shuttle being destroyed by an asteroid.

The HP ad depicts astronauts dressed for flight, and included the line, "HP computers and servers help NASA in making sure our astronauts come home safely."

The computer company tried to get all of the ads pulled from the air immediately after the accident, but one was missed and ran inadvertently Sunday during CNN's coverage of the accident, said Rebeca Robboy, HP spokeswoman, on Monday.

The FX cable network took its Saturday night airing of Willis' movie "Armageddon" off the schedule. It was replaced by another movie, "Aliens."

"In light of the tragedy, we felt it would be inappropriate to run the movie," FX spokesman John Solberg said.

An Albany, N.Y.-area Fox affiliate received complaints from viewers on Saturday when it aired a rerun of "The Simpsons." One scene of the cartoon included Bart Simpson building a rocket and firing it, and it falls to the ground, burning down a church.

WXXA-TV pulled the episode in mid-stream and replaced it with another rerun of "The Simpsons," said Jeff Whitson, the station's general manager.

"It wasn't as if we got hundreds (of complaint calls), but it was enough for us to pay attention to the episode," Whitson said. "We had no way of knowing. The episode title (`Lisa of Little Faith') didn't give us any indication."

Meanwhile, the Hardee's restaurant chain picked the wrong weekend to launch a new campaign for its "Big Chicken" sandwich.

The company's ad showed a NASA rocket taking off, with a voiceover saying, "We know that the astronauts were not chicken. Stop by Hardee's and get your `Big Chicken' sandwich."

Hardee's tried to have the ad pulled from the select Midwest and Southeast markets where it was going to run over the weekend, but failed at some stations and the ad ran, said Larry Brayman, company spokesman.
  • Sue Chan

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