Last Wednesday night at the first presidential debate, Mitt Romney said he would cut government funding of PBS. Since then, the Obama campaign has been trying to make hay out of the comment, saying that Mitt Romney wants to kill Big Bird. Earlier this week the Obama campaign went so far as to put out an ad which mocks Governor Romney for his position on PBS funding by accusing him of thinking that Big Bird is a menace. The ad is the product of a desperate campaign. With the economy on the brink of collapse, record levels of debt and a foreign policy which has recently had it's incompetence and lies exposed vis a vis the Middle East in general and Libya specifically, the Obama campaign thinks Big Bird should be the focus of our national attention.
The President's Big Bird strategy has fallen flat, especially after the producers and owners of the Sesame Street brand have requested that the ad be taken down. They claim to have no political bias and don't involve themselves in political campaigns. This, of course, is an embarrassment for the President, even more than the ad itself. The Sesame Street folks say that Big Bird is not an endangered species and that they could function fine without the taxpayer money they receive from the government.
The fact is that the taxpayer money (in addition to 1 million dollars of stimulus money) that is given to PBS, only accounts for about 18 percent of their annual budget. The rest comes from corporate and private sponsorship. As a going concern, PBS in general and Sesame Street specifically, are profitable enterprises and don't need the taxpayer money they receive to survive. The Sesame Street enterprise, according to IRS filings, is worth 350 million dollars. The money, to a large degree, comes from the merchandising of plush toys in the image of Big Bird, Oscar the Grouch and the rest of the gang.
Beyond the fact that PBS doesn't need taxpayer money to insure it's survival, I never thought it was proper for taxpayer money to be used in this way. Why should one network receive taxpayer funding and not another? Do we really want the government picking winners and losers in the free market, making them less free. Individual shows and their networks in general should succeed if they have an audience and fail if they don't. The government should not sanction certain content over others and then use our money to support the content they deem essential. This kind of corporate welfare is exactly what the left claims to be against, I guess corporate welfare is okay if you're an 8 foot 2 inch yellow bird.