Skip to comments.Big Bird doesn't need our help PBS subsidy is the easiest budget cut in Washington
Posted on 10/13/2012 10:01:23 PM PDT by Jet Jaguar
When I asked Concord Monitor Editor Felice Belman last week about writing a column on PBS funding, I never imagined that President Obama would make it the central theme of his re-election strategy.
The president has invoked the threat to Big Bird in every stump speech. As Jon Stewart remarked on The Daily Show, Obama's comparison of Wall Street to Sesame Street would have been a clever comeback during the first debate, but seemed pretty lame coming a day later when one of his speechwriters loaded it into a teleprompter.
I've been a critic of Latte Welfare for several years. When I ran for Congress in 2008, I called for ending federal subsidies for public broadcasting during a debate on Channel 11, which I'll admit, in hindsight, seems a bit tacky. I testified last year before the state Senate Finance Committee that ending the state subsidy for New Hampshire Public Television was the easiest $5 million in savings that budget writers were going to find.
The Public Broadcasting Act of 1967 created the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which is seeking $445 million next year, $297 million to PBS, $99.5 million to public radio stations, $26.7 million for "System Support" programs designed to benefit all member stations, and $22.2 million for administrative expenses. This adds up to about 15 percent of the operating budget for public broadcasting stations.
Sesame Street debuted in 1969, and was a groundbreaking achievement in children's education programming. In The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell chronicles how the Children's Television Network studied how young children learned and adapted its programming to be more "sticky." Sesame Street writers also included jokes and cultural references aimed at adults, to keep parents entertained as they watched with their kids.
I debuted in 1972, and grew up on Sesame Street and in Mr. Roger's Neighborhood. I'm also a big fan of Mad Men and the Battlestar Galactica reboot, but I'm happy they don't getting taxpayer subsidies. The global success of Sesame Street shows that such funding is no longer necessary.
We could argue over whether the federal government has a legitimate reason to start a TV network in 1967. But in today's incredibly competitive entertainment marketplace, such an argument is downright silly.
There are dozens of cable networks devoted to programming that used to be unique to PBS. This Old House spawned HGTV. Julia Child paved the way for Food Network. Downton Abbey and Masterpiece Theatre would be more at home on BBC America. Discovery Channel, National Geographic, and a huge block of kids' channels compete for viewers without getting 15 percent of their funding from taxpayers.
And anyone who thinks the political coverage of PBS is superior to the talking heads on cable news has never watched an entire episode of the McLaughlin Group.
We can also dispense with the notion that PBS is needed as a refuge from the horrors of commercial television. The underwriting announcements given to PBS sponsors are indistinguishable from commercials. As I write this, PBS.org in running web ads for United Healthcare and Beaches Resorts. I lost track of how much I've spent over the years buying Ken Burns DVDs as Fathers Day presents.
There are some great deals right now at ShopPBS.org. You can get the American Brew DVD for $9.99, or William and Kate: Planning a Royal Wedding for only $7.99. I've got my eye on a Johnny Cash Blu-Ray for $24.98. Thank goodness we don't have to count on commercial television to pay attention to beer, country music and the Royal Family.
Sesame Street has largely weaned itself off the public dole and receives very little
federal funding. It rakes in millions in licensing deals from 140 countries and countless toys, books, and games. Big Bird is going to be just fine.
The half-billion dollars we spend on public broadcasting isn't much compared to a trillion-dollar annual deficit and a $16 trillion debt. But it is the easiest spending cut anyone is Washington is going to find.
If are elected leaders can't bring themselves to stop subsidizing upper-middle-class television, how can we trust them to make tough decisions?
This debate over funding PBS is actually quite informative. Anyone who insists we still need it obviously doesn't really care about fixing the deficit, and needn't be taken seriously.
Obama thinks this is the biggest problem in America.
Doubtful the annoying big-ass bird is pleased its salary of $400 Gs is now public knowledge.
And yet I have distant relitives who won’t cut it. “it’s only 1%” “your not going to solve the budget problem buy cutting educational programs” blah blah blah..
I said, hey if you won’t even agree to a 1% cut in the budget whats the point in trying to cut it at all? I asked for one budget item they would cut that was not a requirement of the Constitution.
“the military” was their reply.
These idiots are among us, they vote....
Forty years of fancy talking socks. All they do is count to ten and do the alphabet. Forty years of this scam. They can’t replay some of the earlier talking puppet shows. Which is the same thing over and over and over.
What a scam.
PBS/NPR survive with plenty of GOP support.
The GOP needs to grow a pair and stop funding the left’s propaganda machine.
The only reason I could see for PBS funding is pretty much defunct. Back before the days of satellite TV, Cable, Wireless, and all the innovations, there were alot of small markets that ran on the old 3 channels, and maybe a public station.
Heck, I remember there was a guy back where I grew up who still didn’t have electricity.
That reason is history now. And I am sure PBS (or the copyright or trademark owner) will proudly tell you no bones that the Muppet(TM) brand is worth over a billion dollars.
all big bird needs is for someone to wring it’s neck and cook it for dinner!
Don’t keep big bird caged up In the government
zoo. That’s inhumane!
Free big bird!
Worse than that. In the early days, the shows were cute and entertaining. Now they are filled with social lessons interspersed with the numbers and letters. It’s psychological manipulation of kids in an attempt to turn them into little head cases at a young age. How are you feeling? Oh, don’t feel bad. Everybody has these feelings, etc. etc. It’s all garbage served up by Ph.D’s in education.
Give me the old Warner Bros. cartoons any day.
PBS doesn’t need government funds. it is well known they are well funded.
Delivering the government message (brainwashing) to our kids..... global warming, forced diversity, with a sprinkle of basic learning in foreign languages. This we pay for. If Big Bird and sesame street were conservative based in a conservative value system it would be privately subsidised from its beginings thanks to the rats