Maine PBS undecided on airing ‘Buster’ cartoon Depiction of lesbian couples sparks controversy

This story was published on Feb. 03, 2005 on Page D2 in all editions of the Bangor Daily News

Maine PBS has not yet made a decision to air a controversial episode of a children’s program that includes depictions of lesbian couples, the station’s spokesperson said Wednesday.

The Boston station that produced the series, however, decided to show the episode at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Boston’s WGBH-TV is one of several PBS stations that will air an episode of “Postcards From Buster” despite the network’s decision not to distribute it nationwide because it included two lesbian couples as characters.

Local PBS affiliates were given the option to air the program. So far, 21 stations have said they will air it and another six have indicated they probably will, Jeanne Hopkins, spokeswoman for Boston’s WGBH-TV, said Tuesday.

Deborah Johnson, spokeswoman for Maine PBS, said the public’s input may go a long way toward helping Maine PBS decide whether to air the episode.

“I do think that there is a percentage of population that want to be informed. They want the facts, they want to know what the episode is all about,” Johnson said Wednesday.

“I believe that there are households in the southern part of the state that can access [WGBH-TV], so there may even be Maine residents that get to see it tonight,” she added.

PBS said last week it would not distribute the episode to its 349 stations around the country. The show features an animated character, Buster, visiting farms in Vermont where maple sugar is produced, and includes two lesbian couples that work on the farms.

The decision came after newly appointed Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings complained about public money being used to promote alternative lifestyles.

PBS gets funding for the series through the federal Ready-To-Learn program, aimed at helping young people learn through television.

“We do disagree with the [PBS] decision and were disappointed,” Hopkins said. “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.”

Johnson said it wasn’t for her to say whether the decision was the right one. She did say that most of the calls and input filtered to her from Maine residents has been positive.

“The majority of people who have contacted us are in favor of airing the program,” she said. “Most are familiar with the show, they like the show.”

WGBH-TV originally planned to air the episode in late March, but decided recently to move the date up.