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

Janelle Griffith
Mr. Ratburn from the children's show "Arthur" married another man in the show's 22nd season premiere in an episode, titled "Mr. Ratburn and the Special Someone," starring lesbian actor Jane Lynch as a special guest on PBS.
Source: PBS Kids

Alabama Public Television chose not to air PBS' recent "Arthur" episode that featured a same-sex marriage.

During the animated series' 22nd season premiere, titled "Mr. Ratburn and the Special Someone," Arthur's third-grade teacher, Mr. Ratburn, marries Patrick, a chocolatier, at a wedding attended by his students Arthur, Francine, Buster and Muffy. It aired May 13.

Mike McKenzie, director of programming at APT, told NBC News on Monday that PBS sent a message to stations in mid-April alerting them "to possible viewer concerns about the content of the program." After he and others at APT viewed the episode, they decided not to broadcast it and showed a rerun instead.

McKenzie said the station has no plans to air it.

Read more from NBC News
Abortion rights activists protest restrictive new laws across the country 
Three handwritten wills found in Aretha Franklin's home
'John Wick 3' knocks down 'Avengers: Endgame' with $57 million debut

"Parents have trusted Alabama Public Television for more than 50 years to provide children's programs that entertain, educate and inspire," 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. We also know that children who are younger than the 'target' audience for 'Arthur' also watch the program."

McKenzie also said that if APT had aired the episode, the station would have taken away 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."

GLAAD, the media advocacy group for LGBTQ people, said APT's decision was an "attack to censor content" and not only "mean-spirited," but also "it's a losing battle."

"TV worlds often reflect our actual world and today that includes LGBTQ parents and families," GLAAD president and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said. "LGBTQ parents and their children deserve to see themselves reflected in media, and if leadership of this public broadcasting station cannot serve the interests of the entire public, it's time to find someone who can."

"Arthur" debuted in 1996 and follows the adventures of its title character, his friends and family.

In 2005, APT pulled an episode of "Postcards From Buster," a spinoff of "Arthur," in which the character Buster met a girl who had two mothers.

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