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KLRN won't air 'Postcards From Buster' depicting lesbian parents

In January, Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings criticized PBS for planning to air an episode of the acclaimed children's show Postcards From Buster, in which Buster, a cartoon bunny, visits a maple sugar farm in Vermont and stays with a host family whose parents are a lesbian couple. The episode focuses on the wonders of Vermont's delicious maple sugar, while at the same time teaching respect and acceptance regardless of someone's sexual orientation.

Spellings was not sweet on the idea. In her second day on the job, after taking over for previous secretary Rod Paige, Spellings sent three requests to WGBH in Boston, the home of Postcards From Buster, asking them to pull the episode as it, "`did` not fulfill the intent Congress had in mind for programming." And what exactly is Congress' intent for public programming? Spellings isn't clear on that point, but suggests that depicting a lesbian couple conflicts with the Ready To Learn program, funded by the Department of Education, to "improve the school readiness of young children through the reach of public broadcasting." Ah.

WGBH distributed the episode to several PBS affiliates anyway, including a few in Texas. Houston's KUHT and Dallas' KERA have already aired the program, and Austin's KLRU aired it on March 28. San Antonio's KLRN, however, dropped the ball by following the Bush administration's lead and refusing to air "Sugartime!"

The Esperanza Center will present the episode as part of its CineMujer film festival, March 28-April 2. The episode will air as a bonus feature in-between the festival's major films. For showtimes, visit esperanzacenter.org.

An upcoming episode of PBS' NOW, examining a recent trend in companies that end lifetime health benefits with a variety of legal tricks to counter the rise of health-care costs that began in the late '80s, will air April 1 on KLRN. Although some employers have the luxury of dropping benefits entirely without a court battle, the fine print in employment contracts forces others to rely on more insidious methods. Corporate lawyers are beginning to argue that the term "lifetime" refers to the life of the contract, rather than the person the contract is supposed to protect. Once the contract dies, the company's obligation to provide benefits dies along with it.

The program follows Basil Chapman, a former employee of ACF Industries who served as president of his local union, which threatened to bring legal action against ACF when it changed its health coverage plan to include charges on benefits that, up to now, were free. ACF then viciously sued Chapman.

The program cites surveys showing a majority of employers are likely to either raise premiums or increase retiree contributions to benefit packages, while a smaller but still distinct number foresee eliminating benefits altogether. The trend is equally disturbing for current employees, who now must look for a contingency plan if retirement benefits and Social Security evaporate under the deadly heat of the bottom line. For more information visit klrn.org or pbs.org/now.


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