Just days after public broadcasting came under Congressional scrutiny for the
way National Public Radio covered an issue involving conservative Christian
groups, PBS is back in the sights of Republicans.
Last week, The Washington Post reported that PBS plans to add an
HIV-positive character to the cast of the Muppets on its South African version of
Sesame Street, and that it may do the same in the United States.
While Republican members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee agreed
that perhaps South Africans should see more HIV-positive characters on their TV
programs, they aren't sure if the same is true for the children aged two through four who
watch Sesame Street in the United States.
"While it is important to teach children in an age-appropriate manner about
compassion for those who contract certain diseases, we would like to inquire as
to whether there is other PBS programming, aimed at an older age group, which
may be more suitable for such sensitive messages," wrote Rep. Billy Tauzin
(R-La.), chairman of the full committee; Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), chairman of
the Internet and Telecommunications Subcommittee; Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.),
chairman of the Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection Subcommittee; Rep. Joe
Barton (R-Texas), chairman of the Energy and Air Quality Subcommittee; and Reps.
Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Chip Pickering (R-Miss.).
The Congressmen submitted a list of relevant questions to PBS president Pat
Mitchell and asked for a response no later than Friday.