Big Bird | Stan Honda~AFP/Getty Images
Updated: November 8, 2012 12:04PM
So it’s come to this: Even Big Bird, we’re told, needs a pay cut — all the way down to zero.
In the presidential debate on Wednesday, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney said, “I’m going to stop the subsidy to PBS. I’m going to stop other things. I like PBS. I love Big Bird. . . . But I’m not going to . . . keep on spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for it.”
Public television, which airs Big Bird on “Sesame Street,” long has been on the right-wing hit list. Conservatives have argued PBS is elitist, wasteful — and liberal. We aren’t arguing that programming on the 179 public TV stations is ideal. PBS airs its share of clunkers, and we think we could survive if we never saw the “Celtic Thunder” on Channel 11 again.
But not everyone can afford cable or Internet TV, and PBS brings a stream of educational and horizon-broadening fare over the air. Four out of five children under 5 watch public TV. It’s the broadcasting equivalent to a public library.
Discontinuing PBS would make the job of boosting our nation’s educational achievement — a goal loudly proclaimed by Democrats and Republicans — that much harder. Federal funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting was $450 million this year. How much more would have to be spent on schools to replace what PBS provides?
Documentaries and public affairs programs also help keep citizens abreast of important issues. Does anyone really think commercial television stations are just waiting for the demise of PBS before launching better programs on their own?