Publik Broadkasting Under *FIRE*!

John blueoval at 1SMARTISP.NET
Wed Feb 2 10:34:32 MST 2005

[2]Spellings wants PBS money back

  By George Archibald
  Published January 27, 2005


  Education Secretary Margaret Spellings has asked the Public
Broadcasting Service to refund taxpayer dollars used to create and
distribute an episode of a cartoon program that features lesbian
parents, saying the subject matter was inappropriate and
undermines the show's effort to promote literacy.

      The "PBS for Kids" episode of its popular "Postcards From
Buster" program, originally scheduled to air Feb. 2 in classrooms
across the country, had been pulled for review after some
affiliates of PBS complained about its content. It was produced
with Education Department grant money from a literacy initiative.

      In a letter to PBS President and Chief Executive Officer Pat
Mitchell, Mrs. Spellings insisted that all references to Education
Department funding and sponsorship be deleted from the program
credits and "any materials about the program," such as teacher
guides and student workbooks.

      "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," Mrs. Spellings wrote in a letter sent

      PBS Chief Operating Officer Wayne Godwin yesterday said that
the public television system already had decided not to provide
the episode to member stations and that the Education Department's
financial contribution to the episode "will be used to fund the
production of a replacement show."

      "After considerable reflection and discussion within the
public television system over the last weeks, PBS concluded there
are elements of the 'Postcards From Buster' episode that parents
should have the option of addressing with their young children at
a time and manner of their own choosing," Mr. Godwin said.

      Lea Sloan, a PBS spokeswoman, downplayed the furor
yesterday, saying Boston PBS affiliate WGBH, which produces the
show, still would air the episode on an unspecified date.

      "There will be no reference to PBS or Department of
Education or Ready-to-Learn support," she said.

      PBS will deliver 40 "Postcards From Buster" episodes under a
$99.7 million department grant that began in 2000, as agreed, "and
will not include the 'Sugartime!' episode," Miss Sloan said,
referring to title of the disputed episode.

      Religious and pro-family groups have complained about
children's TV programming and videos that promote tolerance of

      "What's at stake is the forced normalization of
homosexuality in the public schools," said Tom Minnery, vice
president of government and public policy at Focus on the Family
in Colorado.

      Mr. Minnery was speaking of a private foundation's
production and distribution to 61,000 public and private
elementary schools of a "diversity and unity" video featuring
Nickelodeon's SpongeBob  SquarePants and PBS' Big Bird, Barney and
others singing the disco-era hit song "We Are Family."

      Focus on the Family founder James Dobson warned parents that
the video and accompanying classroom booklet "may put materials in
teachers' hands that could prompt them to teach kids that
homosexuality is equivalent to heterosexuality."

      He said SpongeBob SquarePants is one of 100 popular animated
characters that "may have been co-opted by an innocuous-sounding
group to promote acceptance of homosexuality to children."

      The scrapped "Postcards From Buster" episode was produced by
WGBH-TV in Boston with a grant from the Education Department's $23
million Ready-to-Learn program, a literacy initiative of first
lady Laura Bush.

      It features a lesbian couple with adopted children in
Vermont who accompany Buster to a sugarhouse, where maple syrup is
made, and to a dairy farm, where they watch a cow being milked.

      The half-hour "Postcards From Buster" show blends animation
and live action starring Buster, an 8-year-old bionic rabbit.
Buster's dad, a pilot, is flying a rock group called La Viajeros
on a North American tour and has taken Buster with his video
camera to record new friendships and discoveries for "video
postcards to his mom and friends back home."

      In each episode, Buster visits live children and questions
them about their way of life.

      Miss Sloan told the Boston Globe in Saturday's editions that
Mrs. Mitchell reviewed the show last week and was "satisfied with
its contents."

      "We are aware that this is sensitive subject matter," she
told the Globe. The PBS president "wanted to make sure that the
episode was handled in a way that is appropriate. She's seen it.
We now feel comfortable."

      PBS did not say whether the network decided against
distributing the show after receiving Mrs. Spellings' letter on

  Copyright © 2005 News World Communications, Inc. All rights

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