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The Arkansas Educational Television Network pulled the recent season premiere of the children's animated program Arthur from its primary channel because of the episode's theme of same-sex marriage, officials said.

The station's schedule showed it ran a rerun instead.

The premiere episode, "Mr. Ratburn and the Special Someone," aired nationally on May 13, showing Arthur attending the wedding of his teacher and the teacher's partner.

Julie Thomas, AETN's director of marketing, said the station made the decision not to air it on the main channel after previewing the episode.

"AETN was notified in April by PBS and producing station WGBH about the episode...," Thomas said. "We previewed the episode in question because content decisions that affect our smallest viewers and their parents are a major concern for us.

"While ideally parents watch our programming with their children and discuss it with them afterwards, the reality is that many children, some of them younger than age 4, watch when a parent is not in the room. In realizing that many parents may not have been aware of the topics of the episode beforehand, we made the decision not to air it on our main channel."

Thomas said the episode aired on AETN PBS KIDS, also known as AETN-3.

On Tuesday, the day the Arkansas Times reported AETN's decision to pull the episode, the agency's Twitter account said the public television station planned to air "Mr. Ratburn and the Special Someone" episode on AETN-3 at 6:30 a.m. and 8 p.m. on May 30. The episode will air again on May 31, June 2, June 24 and June 25, the tweet said.

"Viewers have the option to set up alerts for programs they want to watch or avoid at aetn.org/channelinformation," Thomas said.

The station has not officially posted a statement on its website or program page about when the season premiere would air.

The decision comes a day after Alabama Public Television chose not to air the Arthur episode because it included the same-sex wedding, according to The Associated Press.

AL.com, the website for Alabama Media Group, reported that Alabama Public Television Director of Programming Mike Mckenzie defended the decision by saying parents trust that their children can watch the station without supervision.

The station pulled an episode of Arthur in 2005 when a character had two mothers.

Arthur, a Canadian/American program aimed at children ages 4 through 8, has been running for 22 seasons.

In the wedding episode, anthropomorphic aardvark Arthur and his classmates initially think Mr. Ratburn is marrying a woman named Patty, until they find out Patty is Mr. Ratburn's sister, The Washington Post reported in its story about the issue.

Then, Mr. Ratburn walks down the aisle, arm in arm with his soon-to-be-husband, Patrick, who winks at the camera. Arthur's face lights up with a smile.

At the reception, Arthur exclaims, "Mr. Ratburn is married! I still can't believe it!" His classmate Francine calls it "a brand-new world." No one mentions that Mr. Ratburn's husband, Patrick, is a man.

PBS told National Public Radio in a statement that "PBS Kids programs are designed to reflect the diversity of communities across the nation. We believe it is important to represent the wide array of adults in the lives of children who look to PBS Kids every day."

Arthur creator Marc Brown told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. that he was happy to see so many positive comments about the wedding episode on social media.

"Art reflects life. Life reflects art," Brown told the CBC. "And I think that kids need to see what's happening in the world."

Metro on 05/22/2019

Print Headline: Episode's channel switched for Arkansas network; same-sex wedding on Arthur at issue

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