PBS has filed a complaint with the California State Attorney General targeting a group it says "may be engaged in unauthorized charitable fundraising and falsely claiming association with PBS and Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood," according to PBS spokeswoman Jan McNamara, in connection with an upcoming awards banquet.
The banquet's organizer, Michael Kinsell, says it is all a "huge mistake."
The group, the Children's Media Foundation (which also does business as the National Endowment for Children's Educational Media, says PBS), and the complaint was the subject of a story in this week's issue of Current, which covers noncommercial broadcasting.
The foundation's Web site advertises the May 31 award event as "An Evening Honoring Fred M. Rogers, His Friends and the 40th Anniversary of his PBS classic, Mister Rogers´ Neighborhood."
Tickets are $100 apiece, $150 for "dinner with the stars." The site also features a slide show of "our many supporters of the Foundation and our work." The photos include Tom Hanks, Ted Danson, Andy Williams, Henry Winkler, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Dick Van Dyke, Barbara Eden, Bob Newhart, Eddie Murphy and many others.
Kinsell would not identify any of the stars that would be appearing at the banquet, but said his group did not claim association with either PBS or Mister Rogers Neighborhood.
Kinsell, who sounds a bit like Rogers on the phone and says he is studying early childhood education, concedes he drew inspiration from Rogers for the show he is working on, but says it is otherwise his original creation.
He told B&C he would be releasing a statement responding to the PBS complaint later today.