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Buster's Mail Will Go Through

Looks like we'll continue to get postcards from Buster after all.

No longer eligible for government funds, Noncommercial WGBH-TV Boston's Postcards From Buster children's show has secured funding for a second season from a variety of other sources, including The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations, the Gill Foundation, the Annenberg Foundation, the Small Change Foundation, the Community Technology Foundation of California, the California Endowment, The Gordon and Llura Gund Foundation, the David Bohnett Foundation, and PBS.

For a time it looked like those postcards might be coming from the edge, with the show no longer eligible for funding under new Department of Education rules regarding its Ready to Learn grants for kids TV shows.

Buster hopped afoul of then new DOE Secretary Margaret Spellings with a storyline featuring a visit to a same-sex couple who tapped maple syrup. PBS also publicly expressed some reservations about the appropriateness of that plotline. DOE funds the Ready to Learn grants that provided the majority of money for the show's first season of 40 episodes.

But DOE has since overhauled its rules for the grants to target them to preschoolers, with an emphasis on teaching reading to low-income kids and accompanying outreach programs. Buster, targetted to an older child, features an animated bunny who visits real families to sample their cultures and community.

The Buster storyline likely contributed to DOE's re-writing of the grants, but it also squares with the Bush administration's general "basics and standards" approach to education.

Timothy Wu, from the Small change Foundation, said he had joined with other gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community leaders to fund the show. "We are deeply committed to the series' editorial independence, free from attempts by funders to influence content," he said.

Even so, station spokeswoman Lucy Sholley said that there are no plans to include a same sex couple in the second season, though she said the show "would never exclude any family."

Buster is distributed by PBS to 59 stations covering 50% of the country.

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.