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Monday, 15 July, 2002, 09:58 GMT 10:58 UK
US politicians attack HIV Muppet
Cookie Monster (l) from Sesame Street
Nine countries currently show Sesame Street
Plans to create a Muppet character with HIV in the South Africa edition of children's programme Sesame Street would not be welcome in the United States, Republican party politicians have said.

Five congressmen have written to the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), which broadcasts the series, to say they do not believe the character would be appropriate given the average age of its viewers.


PBS is a mainstay that millions of parents have come to rely upon over the past 35 years

Letter sent to PBS
The letter, quoted in the trade newspaper Daily Variety, said it was "important to teach children in an age-appropriate manner about compassion for those who contract certain diseases".

But it added: "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."

Exported

The letter was sent by WJ Tauzin, a Louisiana Republican, as well as by Joe Barton of Texas, Richard Burr of North Carolina, Charles Pickering of Mississippi, Cliff Stearns of Florida and Fred Upton of Michigan, the paper said.

The makers of the programme have said the character could be exported to the eight other countries which screen Sesame Street, including the US.

The cheerful female character, who as yet has no name or form, will join the Takalani Sesame show, as it is called in South Africa, on 30 September.

The character is designed to be a "good role model" for pre-school children, in a country where one in nine people are infected with HIV.

In some parts of South Africa, 40% of women of child-bearing age are HIV-positive.

"We look forward to working with you to ensure that only age and culturally appropriate programmes air on PBS, which is a mainstay that millions of parents have come to rely upon over the past 35 years," the letter addressed to PBS president Pat Mitchell added.

The congressman have also asked PBS how much money is dedicated to Sesame Street, how much the new character will cost to introduce and whether or not it will feature in US editions of the series.

Sesame Street was started in November 1969 with the aim of teaching children numbers and words using cartoons and puppets.

It has become one of the most popular and critically-acclaimed children's TV programmes and a model for similar shows around the world.


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12 Jul 02 | Africa
07 Dec 01 | Entertainment
12 Oct 01 | South Asia
06 Dec 00 | Entertainment
22 Mar 00 | Business
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