TV Article

Muppet Masters

''Sesame'''s HIV-positive Muppet won't come to U.S. PBS says new character will appear on South African ''Sesame Street'' only, alleviating concerns of Republican congressmen

Republican representatives needn't worry that America's toddlers will be exposed to AIDS education on ''Sesame Street.'' Variety reports that PBS president Pat Mitchell wrote in a letter on Tuesday that the new HIV-positive Muppet who will be introduced on South Africa's version of the show in September will not be crossing over to the American ''Sesame Street.''

Last Friday, Louisiana Rep. W.J. ''Billy'' Tauzin and five other Republicans on the House Commerce Committee wrote a letter to Mitchell expressing concern that the new character would be inappropriate for young ''Sesame Street'' viewers in the U.S., and noted that their committee controls PBS' funding. Mitchell's letter in response read in part, ''There are no plans to incorporate this character or curriculum into 'Sesame Street' on PBS,'' Variety reports.

Starting Sept. 30, the HIV-positive character, a female Muppet whose name and design haven't been disclosed, will be a full-time character on ''Takalani Sesame,'' the South African show, where she'll be ''lively, friendly and an active participant,'' the show's producers tell Variety. They say her presence is intended not to teach kids about sexuality but to de-stigmatize HIV-infected people in a country where an estimated one in nine people carries the AIDS virus. An aide to Rep. Tauzin tells Variety that, while the congressman found the Muppet questionable for U.S. youngsters, Tauzin doesn't object to U.S. funding going toward developing the character for South African audiences.

Originally posted Jul 17, 2002