Save public broadcasting, save Big Bird

Please save my friend. Don’t kill Big Bird.
Everyone’s yellow, feathered friend from childhood years has gained national attention after presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s controversial comment in the first 2012 presidential debate.
“I like PBS,” said Romney to moderator Jim Lehrer, editor and former anchor for PBS. “I love Big Bird. Actually, I like you too. But I’m not going to keep on spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for.”
Wait. Did he just say that Big Bird was responsible for the federal deficit? As Obama likes to say, “The math simply doesn’t add up.”
Unfortunately, Romney’s zinger hasn’t boosted his own image, but has rather made him into an evil capitalist and predator of America’s Sesame Street friends.
Proponents of public broadcasting created viral Twitter hashtags and Facebook memes such as, “Obama got Bin Laden. I’ll get Big Bird,” “Brought to you by the Number 47,” and “Keep Calm and Big Bird On.”
Chris Mecham and Michael Bellavia , who have never met in-person before (only through social media), felt so strongly about public broadcasting that they co-organized the Million Puppet March to take place on Nov. 3 in Washington D.C.
“We believe in public media,” states the organization. “We believe that a strong public broadcasting system builds a stronger nation. And we believe that it is essential to provide adequate federal funding to our public broadcasters.” And I completely agree.
The matter at hand shouldn’t be simplified to a battle of pro-Republican or pro-Democrat, nor should it be about pro-Romney or pro-Obama.
This is about cutting or keeping national budget for public broadcasting. And I believe the answer is quite obvious for several reasons.
Firstly, I know that many, including myself, have received free access to some of the most high-quality educational programs through public broadcasting. Who doesn’t remember Sesame Street, The Magic School Bus, or Bill Nye the Science Guy? With federal financial support, public broadcasting also features documentaries and classical and jazz music that receive little to no attention from commercial channels.
Secondly, cutting public broadcasting can affect its accessibility to viewers.
“In aggregate our money is 15 percent of our budget,” said President and CEO of PBS Paula Kerger to CNN. “But when you look at it station by station, …particularly in rural parts of the country that their part of the federal budget is 50 percent, 60 percent, 70 percent (of their total funding). Those stations will go off the air.”
She further pointed out, “Both candidates talked about the importance of education. We are America’s biggest classroom. So the fact that we’re in this debate, this isn’t about the budget. It has to be about politics.”
Thirdly, during the presidential debate, Romney’s words verbatim were, “I’m not going to keep on spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for.”
If you did a double take, you heard the presidential candidate correctly.
I expected a little more from the Harvard Business School graduate who frequently flaunts saving the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics.
I’m no mathematician, but I have enough common sense to understand that Romney nor Obama nor even Clinton could rely on cuts to eliminate the federal deficit.
Associate Professor of Political Science Maria Rosales mentioned in an email interview, “You might have seen the Neil deGrasse Tyson joke, ‘Cutting PBS support (0.012 percent of budget) to help balance the Federal budget is like deleting text files to make room on your 500GB hard drive.’ It is funny, but it is also true.”
I’m not sure if I should be afraid of Romney cutting public broadcasting if elected, or if I should be afraid of his reason and justification in doing so.
Either way, I’m scared that a presidential candidate is daring to touch the federal funding for public broadcasting, as if it’s the right thing to do.
Some readers may argue that my points such as those regarding Big Bird can be misleading. I will go ahead and note that Big Bird isn’t going to die.
For the record, Sesame Street receives little funding from PBS and therefore Big Bird will still be here. But I wouldn’t breathe a sigh of relief yet.
Big Bird may not die, but Big Bird symbolizes what public broadcasting is and stands for.
And according to Romney, he doesn’t care much for it.