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Saturday, August 05, 2006

So why do we give money to PBS?


Left, Melanie Martinez, the former PBS host,
on “The Good Night Show” set in May.

PBS Firing of Host of ‘The Good Night Show’ Draws Protests


By ELIZABETH JENSEN
Published: August 5, 2006

When it comes to outrage, parents of toddlers know how to make themselves heard.

The Public Broadcasting Service has weathered recent criticism from free-speech advocates saying that the network is being overly cautious in a new policy to censor foul language in nonfiction programs by digitally obscuring the mouths of speakers. But the outcry has been dwarfed by the thousands of complaints, mostly from parents, over the PBS Kids Sprout network’s firing of Melanie Martinez, the host of “The Good Night Show,” after learning that she appeared years ago in two videos spoofing public service announcements advocating teenage sexual abstinence.

As the controversy has escalated, Ms. Martinez, a 34-year-old New York actress who is married and the mother of a 3-year-old, has become for many a symbol of political expediency run amok. On Thursday PBS’s own ombudsman, Michael Getler, tackled the topic for a second time and wrote that Ms. Martinez’s firing had “too much of a whiff of after-the-fact loyalty oaths and purity checks on performers who do lots of different things.”

Ms. Martinez, who has largely kept silent since her firing was made public on July 20, said in a telephone interview that while she was grateful for the support, she did not relish her new role. Above all, she said, “I’m sad that I don’t have a job and also sad I don’t have that job.”

As host of “The Good Night Show,” a block of evening series that includes “Dragon Tales,” “Bob the Builder” and “Thomas & Friends,” Ms. Martinez introduced cartoons and demonstrated arts and crafts between the segments. “I had the best time making it,” she said. “It was two glorious seasons that I filmed.”

The 30-second videos that led to her firing, made in 2000 and 2001, graphically satirized abstinence programs but were not pornographic. They were downloaded some two million times from a Web site called technicalvirgin.com that was once lauded by Maxim and Howard Stern but has since been dismantled.

David Mack, the co-writer, producer and director of the videos, said in an interview that he removed them in 2004. “When we heard Melanie was auditioning for a PBS kids show, we thought it was not the sort of thing that we would want out there,” he said, adding that “it was an old joke that had run its course.”

But pirated copies of the videos were still ricocheting around the Web, on youtube.com and Google Video, neither of which existed when the videos were made. “We did not conceive of that coming back to haunt us,” Mr. Mack said, adding, “I feel terrible.”

According to both Ms. Martinez and Sprout, she became aware that the videos were still online and told her bosses in mid-July. But Ms. Martinez said she had also disclosed the work, which she called “smartly written,” when she applied for the job at Sprout, a digital cable and satellite channel that broadcasts reruns of shows like “Barney and Friends” and “Sesame Street” and is seen in about 20 million homes. “I’ve never hidden anything on my résumé as far as my acting career,” she said, but “it never came up.”

Asked about Ms. Martinez’s contention that she disclosed the work on her résumé, the president of Sprout, Sandy Wax, said in a statement released through a spokeswoman that “the first time we learned of Ms. Martinez’s appearance in the Technical Virgin video was when she disclosed this information to PBS Kids Sprout on July 14, 2006. Prior to this date, we had no knowledge of the existence of these videos or Ms. Martinez’s role in them from the information we were provided at the time she was cast in the role of ‘Melanie’ a year ago.”

The president of PBS, Paula Kerger, told The Los Angeles Times last week that Ms. Martinez would probably not have been hired had executives known of the videos because “she’s not an actress — she really is supposed to embody the service itself.”

In a statement to parents posted on its Web site, sproutletsgrow.com, Sprout says that “the dialogue in this video is inappropriate for her role as a preschool program host and may undermine her character’s credibility with our audience.”

That didn’t sit well with many parents, who deluged the network with complaints and started two petitions to have her reinstated. Many messages noted that toddlers were unlikely to be surfing the Internet and stumble across the past work.

Sprout is a joint venture of PBS, the cable system operator Comcast Corporation and the producers Hit Entertainment and Sesame Workshop. But PBS has taken the brunt of the ire, with some Internet posters suggesting that protestors withhold donations.


I'm confused. She didn't suck any dick, she made a parody film and got fired? Now, I could see if she had a cock in her mouth on film, but short of that, come on.

posted by Steve @ 1:30:00 AM

1:30:00 AM

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