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THE NATION

Education Secretary Criticizes PBS Show With Gay Couples

January 26, 2005|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The nation's new Education secretary denounced the Public Broadcasting Service on Tuesday for spending public money on a cartoon with lesbian characters, saying many parents would not want children exposed to such lifestyles.

The not-yet-aired episode of "Postcards From Buster" shows the title character, an animated bunny named Buster, on a trip to Vermont -- a state known for recognizing same-sex civil unions. The episode features two lesbian couples, although the focus is on farm life and maple sugaring.

A PBS spokesman said late Tuesday that the nonprofit network had decided not to distribute the episode, called "Sugartime!" to its 349 stations.

"Ultimately, our decision was based on the fact that we recognize this is a sensitive issue, and we wanted to make sure that parents had an opportunity to introduce this subject to their children in their own time," said Lea Sloan, vice president of media relations at PBS.

However, the Boston public television station that produces the show, WGBH, does plan to make the "Sugartime!" episode available to other stations. WGBH plans to air the episode March 23, Sloan said.

PBS gets federal funds for the "Postcards From Buster" series.

Education Secretary Margaret Spellings said the "Sugartime!" episode did not fulfill the intent Congress had in mind for programming.

"Congress' and the [Education] Department's purpose in funding this programming certainly was not to introduce this kind of subject matter to children, particularly through the powerful and intimate medium of television," Spellings wrote in a letter sent Tuesday to Pat Mitchell, PBS president and chief executive.

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