12/11/96 -- 11:41 PM

PBS-Cheetos,0309


NEW YORK (AP) - Frito-Lay Inc. has decided against an underwriting deal that would have made its Cheetos snacks a sponsor of ``Wishbone,'' a popular kid's show on the Public Broadcasting Service.

The Dallas-based snack foods company, a unit of PepsiCo Inc., reportedly had been discussing paying about $1 million to have brief messages at the start and end of the show identifying Cheetos as a program underwriter.

But Frito-Lay earlier this week told the program's producer, Lyrick Studios of Dallas, it was no longer interested in having Cheetos underwrite the program, studio spokesman Russell Mack said Wednesday.

Frito-Lay spokeswoman Lynn Markley said underwriting the show ``wasn't a fit for Cheetos.'' Without elaborating, she said talks were continuing about other marketing opportunities with the program.

The discussions began after PBS' decision last summer to broaden the program under which it allows companies and their operating divisions to get on-screen mentions for underwriting shows.

The new guidelines allow brands to be underwriters, as well, although no brand has yet done so.

``Wishbone'' is a series starring a dog that imagines it has become the leading character from classic books. The show, often carried in late-afternoon, is among PBS's most popular shows with children aged 6 to 11.

Mack said the producers are still talking with other potential underwriters and are confident of gaining support. He said Lyrick plans to make additional episodes of the series starting early next year.

PBS was never directly involved in the talks between Frito-Lay and Lyrick Studios, according to PBS spokesman Tom Epstein. ``We never got a definitive proposal from Frito-Lay,'' he said.

Copyright 1996 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.