PBS CEO Pat Mitchell pointed out to lawmakers today that it is not PBS but
a federal agency, the U.S. Agency for International Development, that is helping
fund Takalani Street, the South African version of Sesame Street
that has just introduced an
HIV-positive Muppet character.
That was part of Mitchell's
response to House Energy and Commerce Chairman Billy Tauzin.
The main thrust of her letter, however, was to assure Tauzin and
other concerned House Republicans that 'there are no plans to incorporate this
character or curriculum into Sesame Street on PBS,'
and directing them to a July 12 Sesame Workshop statement to that effect.
Mitchell pointed out that Sesame Street producer Sesame
Workshop is an independent contractor with PBS, and thus she has no control over
what they do internationally. But she said that no PBS or CPB funds go to
Tauzin and other House Republicans had sent her a letter expressing their
concerns after a Washington Post report that such a character was being
introduced into the South African version, and speculation elsewhere that such a
character might possibly be introduced in the U.S.
In announcing the new Muppet character today, Sesame
Workshop points out that it is estimated that one in nine South Africans (4.7
million) are infected with the HIV virus.
USAID resident Director in South Africa Dirk Dijkerman called the addition of
the character in South Africa: 'a tremendous teaching opportunity that will
reach almost 14 million people per week via radio and TV.'