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PBS Stations May Run Controversial Show

The Nation

Although PBS won't distribute an episode of a children's program featuring a gay couple, local affiliates may air it.

January 28, 2005|Lynn Smith | Times Staff Writer

A number of local public TV stations may run an episode of the animated series "Postcards From Buster" featuring a real family headed by a lesbian couple despite a decision by PBS not to distribute the program.

PBS said its unusual decision to drop the episode was made independently, not because of pressure from the U.S. Department of Education's new secretary, Margaret Spellings.

Spellings on Tuesday wrote to PBS President Pat Mitchell asking the network to consider removing the department's logo and returning the public money spent on the episode.

"Many parents would not want their young children exposed to the lifestyles portrayed in this episode," she wrote. "Congress' and the 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."

PBS arrived at its decision not to distribute the episode the same day, but not because of Spellings' letter, said John Wilson, PBS' senior vice president of programming. PBS member stations are autonomous and may choose which programs to air, but when PBS supplies a program, it appears in TV guides and many stations feel compelled to run it, Wilson said.

The series, designed for children age 6 to 8, shows the animated bunny Buster, a friend of the storybook and TV character Arthur, visiting real children in diverse parts of the U.S.

"This is a show about kids learning from other kids," said Jeanne Hopkins of WGBH-TV in Boston, which produced the program. "We've visited kids who are Muslim, Mormon, Eastern Orthodox, Pentacostal, kids rurally, kids in cities, kids whose fathers and mothers are heterosexual, single parent, living with grandparents."

Los Angeles' KCET and other stations will decide whether to run the episode after previewing it in the next few days.

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Times staff writer Nick Anderson contributed to this report.

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