prof. e.

Mass Communication, [multi]media, methodology and much, much more!

Ruffling Feathers at PBS

Posted by prof e on October 10, 2012

SNL invited Big Bird to the set of Weekend Update.

For a generation raised on Sesame Street, Big Bird is the poster child for all that is right and good about children’s television. A creation of puppeteer Kermit Love, Big Bird was originally designed to be played by Jim Henson. While that never quite worked out, according to Wikipedia Big Bird has been “officially performed by Caroll Spinney since 1969.” It is worth noting that Spinney is paid more than $300,000 annually for the role, according to the Sesame Workshops forms filed for 2010 tax year (the Atlantic).

So why are we talking about Big Bird? Because in the first 2012 Presidential Debate, which aired Oct 3, Mitt Romney said that in order to reduce the federal budget deficit he would makes cuts to certain domestic programs. Here’s the quote:

“I’m sorry, Jim [Lehrer, moderator of the debate]. I’m going to stop the subsidy to PBS. I’m going to stop other things. I like PBS. I love Big Bird. I actually like you too. But I’m not going to — I’m not going to keep on spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for it.”

In response, the Obama campaign released this ad accusing Romney of going after Sesame Street while giving Wall Street a pass…

According to an article in the WSJ, Sesame Workshop would prefer to avoid being politicized by either candidate and has requested that the Obama campaign pull the ad.

“We have approved no campaign ads and, as is our general practice, have requested that both campaigns remove Sesame Street characters and trademarks from their campaign materials,” said Sesame Workshop, a nonprofit educational organization that produces and owns the show, in a statement.

What do you think about Big Bird, funding for PBS, and politicizing of both for the sake of political gain?


3 Responses to “Ruffling Feathers at PBS”

  1. Oscar The Grouch said

    Romney’s quip regarding the nixing of PBS, Big Bird, and moderator Jim Lehrer was little more than rhetorical red meat for the Elitists of the right-wing, who have long loathed the marginal hint of progressivist auditory that emanates from America’s first but sadly long lost educational medium. Today, the minute public (government) funding the network receives is chump change compared to the sponsorships PBS receives through private (corporate) monies.

    All American democratic institutions were whored-out and hollowed-out years ago. So even if government subsidy for PBS disappears during a Romney adminsitration, some programs, like say Sesame Street and Charlie Rose would surely survive in their CURRENT form — as bastardized, corporatized, meaningless entertainment and propaganda vehicles.

    PBS itself today is little more than a symbol for something that no longer exists in this country — a marketplace for Ideas.

    Name your favorite program, once exclusive to the PBS network, and by extension — our public commons– and then wonder if a private sponsor hasn’t subtly crept it’s agenda into the format of the show’s content. It’s plainly obvious to PBS’s longtime viewers; people who realize that interviewers like Charlie Rose, and others of some intelectual prominence on the network, have devolved and relegated themselves to the staus of simple scribes and intermediaries for the Neo-Conservative and Neo-Liberal Elite alike.

    Big Bird’s rediculous salary should seem no more farcical than the BILLIONS of dollars of advertising revenue being raked in by leviathon multi-national media conglomerates this election cycle. And Amercican’s who treat the Big Bird spectacle as if it’s a worthy issue to contend from either a left or right perspective only emphasize that the narrative of this country’s democracy has disintegrated to that of childish obscurity.

  2. Wal-Mart Mom said

    I’ve now watched all three debates and have marvelled at the fact that all we’re witnessing is a lying, two-headed venomous snake biting itself. Eventually the body politic will succumb to the poison. But that these lying politicians are nothing but liars who can be reliably trusted to lie is old news, and parsimony is just a waste of effort., unless you are a public relations or journalism presstitute.

    What’s more interesting to me is that the American public largely accepts the tiresome and easily discreditable straw-man narratives solicited by government leaders and promulgated by a pundit-class of shills. Just switch the channel between the major news outlets and all you’ll get is a repackaged form of sophistic rhetoric that ultimately enables selective government propaganda rather than challenges it. All the typical media consumer does is simply pick their flavor of Kool Aid, whether it be the FOX brand, CNN, MSNBC ecetera.

    Other than a small, small set of marginalized voices within underground media, American culture is entirely devoid of a public discourse about the future that matters even a little bit.

  3. Sara Knuth said

    The motives of the commercial television industry do not necessarily have the public’s best interests at heart. Most of today’s TV “emphasizes violence, sex, and sensationalism at the expense of quality … exists simply to get people’s attention in the most basic way possible so that they will watch commercials” (Turow 477). With a television climate like this it is hard to deny the legitimacy of a station whose mission statement is “to create content that educates, informs, and inspires.” Big Bird is an essential children’s program and the channel he is hosted on deserves governmental funding. The existence of PBS allows us to live in an entertainment world that is not solely focused on commercial motives. I am sure Sesame Workshop retained their viewers (their parents, at least) from both parties by remaining nonpartisan but I also think they were relieved when President Obama won the election and ensured their future of education and inspiration.

    Works Cited
    Turow, Joseph. Media Today: An Introduction to Mass Communication. 4th ed. New York: Routledge, 2011. Print.
    “PBS – Be More.” PBS. PBS, n.d. Web. 05 Dec. 2013.

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