The National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) has written to the leadership of the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) to ask for a policy change–and an apology–after PBS removed from its national website a children’s program featuring a drag queen. The Let’s Learn segment featured Lil Miss Hot Mess, a leader of Drag Queen Story Hour, reading her children’s book, The Hips on the Drag Queen Go Swish, Swish, Swish. The segment was removed at the request of several member stations who deemed the content too controversial to appear on their local websites. While PBS member stations are free to determine what is broadcast in their local markets, they cannot be allowed to determine what all users of PBS.org nationwide have access to watch.
The decision to privilege the opinions of those who opposed this episode of Let’s Learn runs counter to PBS’s stated mission to “express a diversity of perspectives.” The pressure of anti-LGBTQ+ groups in some regions cannot be allowed to determine what content is available to all users of PBS.org and member stations’ websites. Although this content may be seen by some as controversial, it may also be very important to many people whose local stations choose not to air it. PBS should prioritize making more content available online, not less, to allow individual users to make choices about what they watch, not subject them to the tyranny of local majorities.
In order to build a world where difference is accepted and even celebrated, it is increasingly important to offer content that mirrors the diversity of the viewing public, allowing more people to see themselves in the programming they watch and allowing all people to explore new stories and ideas. However, if LGBTQ+ content continues to be blocked from national reach, producers are increasingly likely to stop producing it.
NCAC urges PBS to publicly apologize to Lil Miss Hot Mess and to return the segment to PBS.org immediately. PBS must also stop allowing member stations to veto what programs are accessible to all web viewers because they may be controversial in their local communities.
Read the full letter to PBS below. Click here for a full-screen view.