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Alabama Public Television refuses to air gay wedding 'Arthur' episode

Evening Standard logo Evening Standard 21/05/2019 Harriet Brewis
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Alabama Public television (APT) has refused to air an episode of children’s cartoon Arthur which features a same-sex marriage.

The animated series, which airs on PBS Kids in the US, began its 22nd season with an episode titled ‘Mr. Ratburn and the Special Someone’.

The premiere aired on May 13 and showed Arthur’s teacher Mr Ratburn marrying his boyfriend Patrick at a wedding attended by his students Arthur, Francine, Buster and Muffy.

Director of programming at APT Mike McKenzie said PBS had sent a message to stations in mid-April warning them of “possible viewer concerns about the content of the program."

After he and his colleagues viewed the episode, they decided not to broadcast it and replay and old episode instead, he told told American broadcaster NBS News on Monday.

“Parents have trusted Alabama Public Television for more than 50 years to provide children’s programs that entertain, educate and inspire,” Mr McKenzie said in a statement.

“More importantly – although we strongly encourage parents to watch television with their children and talk about what they have learned afterwards – parents trust that their children can watch APT without their supervision.

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“We also know that children who are younger than the target audience for 'Arthur' also watch the program,” he added.

Mr McKenzie also said that if ATP broadcast the episode, it would remove the choice of parents who felt it was inappropriate for their children.

"The vast majority of parents will not have heard about the content, whether they agree with it or not," he said.

“Because of this, we felt it would be a violation of trust to broadcast the episode."

Supporters of the episode deplored the move on Twitter, accusing the state of “Stone Age” attitudes and pandering to “bigoted and hateful members of their audience.”

“As if Alabama even deserves Arthur,” tweeted one user.

Arthur has aired on PBS since 1996, and follows the adventures of anthropomorphic aardvark Arthur Read and his friends in the fictional Elwood City.

The show has previously dealt with issues such as cancer, dyslexia, diabetes and autism.

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In 2005, APT pulled an episode of "Arthur" in which the character Buster visited a girl who had two mothers, according to AL.com.

"Our feeling is that we basically have a trust with parents about our programming. This program doesn't fit into that," then-executive director Allan Pizzato reportedly said at the time.

It comes as celebrities and women’s rights activists protest against a bill passed by Alabama lawmakers on May 15, which bans almost all abortions including those in incest and rape cases.

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