- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 29, 2002

A proposed program on homosexuality to be aired this summer on the popular Nickelodeon cable-TV network for children has raised the ire of conservatives.
As of yesterday, a petition on www.conservativepetitions.com asking the network not to air the show had acquired 42,539 signatures. A sample letter on the Web site says the topic is "totally inappropriate" for youngsters and that parents would prohibit their children from watching Nickelodeon if the network airs the show.
The program, which has yet to be named, is being produced by veteran journalist Linda Ellerbee for "Nick News," a newsmagazine for pre-adolescents.
Miss Ellerbee's New York-based company, Lucky Duck Productions, works in cooperation with Nickelodeon.
Andrea Lafferty of the Traditional Values Coalition said Nickelodeon Vice President Marva Smalls told her the show simply would cover pervasive issues of the day.
"For an overwhelming majority of children in the 'Nick News' age 8-13 target audience, homosexuality is not a pervasive issue," Mrs. Lafferty says. "In fact, it is not an issue at all."
During a phone call to Miss Ellerbee's production company in late April, an assistant told her the company knew some parents would object to the content and that "Nick News" had backed away from such a show two years ago.
"Nick News" premiered in 1991 and won a Peabody Award in 1999 for its coverage of the scandal involving President Clinton and Monica Lewinsky.
Nickelodeon spokesman David Bittler said the air date has not been set and nothing has been taped yet.
"'Nick News' is working on a news special on diversity among families that will have a focus on gay parenting," he said. "It is still in the works. Any concern [opponents] have is premature. Given Linda's reputation and the awards 'Nick News' has won over the years, whatever Linda has put to tape will be dynamic and of good taste and safe for people of all ages."
The show, which airs Sundays at 8:30 p.m., appears on a network known mainly for its reruns of classic TV programs and some daytime children's material, such as "Rugrats" and "SpongeBob SquarePants."
Its trust among children is one reason why groups such as the TVC and various Southern Baptist groups oppose the airing of a show on homosexuality.
"Isn't Nickelodeon the place to watch kids getting 'slimed' for a wrong answer on a game or find re-runs of old television shows? After all, Nickelodeon bills itself as a network parents can trust," said an editorial in the Florida Baptist Witness.
No spokesman for Lucky Duck Productions was available yesterday, but Mrs. Lafferty said she learned the show would ask children their thoughts on homosexuality, on families with two mothers or two fathers and what anti-discrimination laws were needed to protect homosexuals.
"This show is nothing more than pure propaganda," Mrs. Lafferty says.
"It is an attempt to further desensitize our nation's children."
She also pointed to an article in the Blade, a Washington newspaper for homosexuals, saying the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation was advising the producers.
"Nickelodeon needs to get its facts straight," she said. "They are lying to mothers and fathers across the country."

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