Kids show featuring same-sex parents to air in some markets

Despite criticism from the U.S. secretary of education, some PBS stations will air a hit kids show depicting lesbian couples.

Despite criticism from the U.S. secretary of education, some PBS stations will air an episode of a hit kids show that depicts two lesbian couples.

The "Sugertime!" episode of Postcards from Buster has been pulled by the PBS network, but will be distributed to interested affiliates by PBS station WGBH-TV in Boston, which co-produced the series.

So far, about 30 PBS stations have said they will air the episode, WGBH-TV spokesperson Jeanne Hopkins told CBC Arts Online Wednesday afternoon.

"In some cases, a few stations – maybe three or four – are thinking they might air it in prime time so that adults can watch it first," she said. "Most of the stations are airing it in the regular children's [slot]."

The Boston station, which is still receiving responses from colleagues around the country, has received "a very positive reaction from the majority of our viewers," Hopkins said. "I think the [affiliates] who are choosing to air it are also."

Postcards From Buster, a spin-off of the hit Arthur series, revolves around main character Buster, a rabbit who travels across the U.S. with his pilot father. The show, a combination of live action and animation, features the cartoon rabbit talking with real-life kids and their families, as he explores different regions, cultures and households, including families headed by a single parent or by grandparents.

In the episode in question, Buster visits Vermont to see how cheese and maple sugar are produced. He meets two farm families that have lesbian parents.

"The parents' lives are included only as a backdrop to the kids' lives; the focus is on Buster's visits to a sugar house and a dairy farm," the station said in a statement.

Last week, PBS announced it would not distribute the episode to its 349 stations across the U.S. At the same time, the public broadcaster was issued a letter by Margaret Spellings, the newly appointed U.S. secretary of education, complaining about public money being used to promote alternative lifestyles (The show is partially funded by a U.S. government program supporting learning through TV).

Spellings requested that PBS remove any statement linking the education department to Postcards From Buster, notify member stations about the episode's content to allow them to time for review before airing it, and refund the government money spent on the episode.

Hopkins told the Associated Press that the show's producers are disappointed with the PBS decision.

"We feel that the program and the other 39 episodes in the series, met the goals set out for it, which is to teach children to understand and accept the rich cultural diversity of this country," she said.

Postcards From Buster, which premiered in fall 2004, is co-produced by Canadian animation company Cookie Jar Entertainment, formerly known as Cinar. The 40-episode first season includes one segment about life in Nunavut, with more Canadian content planned for season two.