Australian Prime Minister John Howard yesterday stepped up his government's attack on the national broadcaster for screening a children's television show depicting a lesbian couple as a reflection of the diversity of family life.
Australian Broadcasting Corporation's popular Play School program sparked a storm here last week by airing the story of a girl called Brenna going to a fair with her two "mothers."
"This is just a very foolish thing for the ABC to do," Howard told rival broadcaster Channel Nine in an interview screened yesterday. "This is an example of the ABC running an agenda in a children's program."
Howard, who has been in the US and Europe since the row began, said in the interview recorded in Britain that if the ABC wanted to debate the issue, it should have done so on its current affairs shows and not Play School.
"To intrude that into a children's program is just being politically correct and I think is an example of the ABC running an agenda," he added.
Politicians on both sides weighed into the debate, saying the ABC had overstepped its authority and accusing it of political correctness.
The offending segment showed a little girl saying "I'm Brenna," over images of her two "mums" smiling and waving. "That's me in the blue," she says. "My mums are taking me and my friend Meryn to an amusement park."
It drew immediate government criticism, with Communications Minister Daryl Williams announcing he had passed his concerns to ABC managing director Russell Balding and asked that they be passed on to the board of the broadcaster.
ABC Children's Television head Claire Henderson said the Through The Windows segment of Play School reflected the variety of the contemporary world.
"Play School aims to reflect the diversity of Australian children, embracing all manner of race, religions and family situations," she said.
But Howard rejected Henderson's claims.
"That doesn't wash with me and I don't think it would wash with most of your viewers," he said.
Before leaving for the US last week Howard announced legislation to outlaw gay marriages and prevent homosexual couples from adopting children from abroad.
However, openly gay Senator Brian Greg of the left-wing Australian Democrats said homosexual taxpayers, who help fund the ABC, had a right to have their family structure seen on television just like everybody else.
"I would hate to see us turn the clock back to a time where minorities were censored from Australian television," he said.
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