Posted Online: Feb. 02, 2005, 11:00 pm

WQPT won't run `Buster' episode featuring lesbians

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By Jenny Lee, jlee@qconline.com

Moline's public television station has decided not to air an episode of a children's show that implies two families have lesbian moms.

New York's WNET, Boston's WGBH and a few other public television stations aired an episode Wednesday of "Postcards from Buster" that showed an animated bunny, Buster Baxter, visiting Vermont, learning about dairy farming and meeting two families with lesbian mothers at dinner, according to Jean Hopkins, vice president of communications of WGBH. The Boston station produces the show.

Rick Best, general manager of Moline's WQPT Channel 24, said the station will follow the lead of Public Broadcasting Service officials, who said in late January that they will not distribute the "Sugartime!" episode.

The Iowa public television station in Johnston, IPTV Channel 12, will decide within a week whether it will air the episode. It won't make a decision until staff sees the episode, said Jennifer Konfrst, communications manager. Dan Miller, the station's executive director and general manger, will make the final decision.

Some local parents and grandparents said they wouldn't mind having children see an episode that mentions gay parents, while others said they'd need to know more about the episode to make any decision.

Dina George of Rock Island, whose daughter, Hailey, 7, attends Jordan Catholic School, said the episode would not bother her because children are exposed to issues about gays and lesbians on commercial television.

Ms. George said her daughter has already asked her, "Mom, are they roommates or are they boyfriends?"

Mr. Best said WQPT will let parents decide when to introduce the topic of same-sex relationships to their children.

WGBH has distributed the episode to about 37 television stations that have already or will air it, Ms. Hopkins said.

Dennis McCallum of Rock Island said if the point of a children's episode was to promote same-sex lifestyles, then he wouldn't be sure if he would want his 6-year-old son, Thomas, to watch it. But if the episode mentioned the gay parents in passing, then he wouldn't mind it, he said.

"To me, it shouldn't matter. It shouldn't matter who raises the kids," said Caroline Grimm of Davenport, who has a 17-year-old son and lives with her life partner Tina Hernandez. "It shouldn't matter who raises the kids. They should air the show."

WQPT airs "Postcards from Buster" on Thursdays at 3 p.m. IPTV Channel 12 airs the show Mondays through Fridays at 6:30 a.m.

Education Secretary Margaret Spellings wrote a letter to PBS in January that said she had serious concerns about the episode, that some parents might not want their children exposed to different family structures.