Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Republicans versus Sesame Street

...And all of PBS, PBS KIDS, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, essential grants like the tremendous Ready to Learn grant that was announced over the past few weeks, and other government support of public media--and hence a large portion of children's media in this country. And those grants, btw, don't just go to organizations like CPB but to private production companies as well; Wildbrain just received a joint five-year grant with Chicago's WTTW, for instance. (Read here for more on all the amazing projects the grant will be funding in the upcoming years.)

Public broadcasting has always been controversial in America; Sesame Street had political opponents from the right since its very inception, when public broadcasting emerged as one of the great achievements of President Johnson's Great Society. And conservatives have essentially kept up the drumbeat against it, even while raising their children on Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood. And now in the wake of Juan Williams' well-earned dismissal from NPR for inflammatory comments against Muslims the Fox News contingent of Republicanism is at it again, calling for complete defunding of programs like NPR and CPB, claiming them to be elitist and therefore a waste of tax-payer money. (Is Sesame Street really elitist? because it's elitist to aspire to basic literacy? Then so is every well-meaning privately-funded children's show, unless you want everything to turn out like SpongeBob Squarepants. I guess in their book that show is populist.)

This is normally a politics-free blog, but a lot's at stake next Tuesday--and this doesn't have to be a left-right issue anyway. Still, public broadcasting isn't at the top of the list of public awareness, and it's probably not in real danger of dissolution, but the audacity of the Fox commentators and the supposition that the marketplace will provide for media--children's or adult--that is in the best interest of society rile me. There would be no children's media industry today in this or any other country without public funding; and it's continuation is essential to ensure a check on private profiteering with our children. (I really think PBS helps keep the private stations honest, away from being 24-7 toy and junk food commercials.)

So let's rally to restore a little sanity and let the country know that, for conservatives and liberals both, removing publicly funded television from the air is no more viable an option than, say, privatizing the FCC. And keeping public funding going will neither impose elitism on poor American viewers or drive out of business private companies like Disney and Viacom--or even the little guys like Wildbrain (who just might get a grant!). Don't let Fox News become the voice that defines American media, especially for our children. And please check out Timothy Karr's Huffington Post article on the same topic.

Oh, and also watch the Grouches' opinion:

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