Thursday, October 4, 2012

Fact Checking the Big Bird Debacle ~ Mitt Needs Educational TV


After watching the debate last night and the Big Bird sympathy all over the internet, I realized the problem is that Mitt just doesn't know much about PBS and how it works.

Nearly every show has a corporate sponsor all ready, from children's shows to Masterpiece Theater, and guess what - they always have! So his new "plan" to defund PBS and make it commercial is redundant and stupid. Same thing with sister channel "Create" - they don't need advertisements because they get sponsors for the products they use for cooking and crafts, and those are displayed at the beginning of the shows. It's a win-win for the network and for the viewers who watch without commercials.

It's as if Romney just wants to strip PBS and NPR bare the way Bain Capital did all those companies before selling them off piece by piece. He's a scorched-earth kinda guy and he likes to prey on the weakest link - in this case, television that helps children, the elderly, shut-ins, and those who need more education.

What Mitt Romney doesn't understand about everything would fill volumes, but if you are going to attack a beloved childhood icons like Big Bird and Sesame Street, at least know what the hell you are talking about!


CNN Interview with PAULA KERGER, PRESIDENT AND CEO, PBS (via telephone):

Joining us now by phone is Paula Kerger the CEO of PBS. Welcome, Paula.

PAULA KERGER, PRESIDENT AND CEO, PBS (via telephone): Thank you for having me on Carol. I appreciate the opportunity to talk to you.

COSTELLO: Oh we're excited to talk to you. I mean -- I mean, the Big Bird moment was funny but there's a serious issue here and that is funding for PBS. Were you surprised that Mitt Romney brought up Big Bird?

KERGER: I was. I mean with the enormous problems facing our country, the fact that we are the focus is just unbelievable to me, particularly given the fact that you know at another part of the debate, both candidates talked about the importance of education. We are America's biggest classroom. We touch children across the country in every home, whether -- whether you have books in your home or computer or not, almost everyone has a television set.

And so we're able to bring kids across the country, not just enjoyable programs but programs that really help them prepare and get ready for school with core curriculum and math and science and literacy. So the fact that we're in this debate, this is not about the budget. It has to be about politics.

COSTELLO: So -- so tell us how much money does Big Bird get from the government?

KERGER: Well, actually, Big Bird doesn't get money from the government. In fact, the money that comes from the government into the corporation for Public Broadcasting actually doesn't even come to PBS. It goes to our member stations.

And so that is actually what's at risk if, in fact, we are defunded because the money is going to stations across the country. In aggregate our money is 15 percent of our budget. But you know when you look at it station by station, there are some stations, particularly in rural parts of the country, that they are a part of the federal budget is 50 percent, 60 percent, 70 percent. Those stations will go off the air. And so for people sitting in communities across the country, that is at risk. That is the consequence if, in fact, our money is zeroed out.

We have been for the 40 years of our history a great public/private partnership and we take the federal money and we leverage that with resources that we -- that we raise.

COSTELLO: I want to talk a little bit about Jim Lehrer. Because there are critics this morning just annihilating his performance last night. What did you think of Jim Lehrer's performance?

KERGER: Well I think you know that it was a very complicated debate structure and so you know and I think that in -- and you saw that I think in the debate last night.

COSTELLO: Well, there was criticism even when Jim Lehrer was initially named to be a moderator. People said oh another old white guy. He's too old to be doing this we live in a new world, we don't need an old-fashioned journalist doing these things any longer.

KERGER: Again, I think it was -- it was a complicated structure for the debate. And -- but, I -- you know again, the fact that we were, you know, singled out early in the debate, to me was just -- it was -- it was stunning. It was just a stunning moment.

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