Leave Big Bird alone: PBS responds to Mitt Romney's threat to cut funding

mitt-romney-big-bird-no.jpgDuring Wednesday night's first presidential debate, GOP candidate Mitt Romney said that if he takes office, he plans to cut federal funding for PBS, the mostly-educational public broadcasting channel that's home to plenty of our favorite shows -- from the iconic "Sesame Street" to the latest phenomenons, like "Downton Abbey" and "Sherlock."

"I'm sorry, Jim, I'm going to stop the subsidy to PBS," Romney said to moderator and PBS NewsHour anchor Jim Lehrer. "I like PBS. I love Big Bird. I actually like you, too. But I'm not going to keep spending money on things, borrowing money from China to pay for it."

Now, PBS has responded to the remarks, citing the extremely small percentage (like 0.01%) of American taxes that go to PBS and noting that during the debate Romney stressed the importance of education, and PBS falls under that umbrella. They even defended Big Bird.

The full statement is below.

We are very disappointed that PBS became a political target in the Presidential debate last night. Governor Romney does not understand the value the American people place on public broadcasting and the outstanding return on investment the system delivers to our nation. We think it is important to set the record straight and let the facts speak for themselves.
 
The federal investment in public broadcasting equals about one one-hundredth of one percent of the federal budget. Elimination of funding would have virtually no impact on the nation's debt. Yet the loss to the American public would be devastating.

A national survey by the bipartisan research firms of Hart Research and American Viewpoint in 2011 found that over two-thirds of American voters (69%) oppose proposals to eliminate government funding of public broadcasting, with Americans across the political spectrum against such a cut.

As a stated supporter of education, Governor Romney should be a champion of public broadcasting, yet he is willing to wipe out services that reach the vast majority of Americans, including underserved audiences, such as children who cannot attend preschool and citizens living in rural areas.
 
For more than 40 years, Big Bird has embodied the public broadcasting mission - harnessing the power of media for the good of every citizen, regardless of where they live or their ability to pay. Our system serves as a universally accessible resource for education, history, science, arts and civil discourse.
 
Over the course of a year, 91% of all U.S. television households tune in to their local PBS station. In fact, our service is watched by 81% of all children between the ages of 2-8.
 
Each day, the American public receives an enduring and daily return on investment that is heard, seen, read and experienced in public media broadcasts, apps, podcasts and online - all for the cost of about $1.35 per person per year.

Earlier in 2012, a Harris Interactive poll confirmed that Americans consider PBS the most trusted public institution and the second most valuable use of public funds, behind only national defense, for the 9th consecutive year.

A key thing to remember is that public television and radio stations are locally owned and community focused and they are experts in working efficiently to make limited resources produce results. In fact, for every $1.00 of federal funding invested, they raise an additional $6.00 on their own - a highly effective public-private partnership.

Numerous studies -- including one requested by Congress earlier this year -- have stated categorically that while the federal investment in public broadcasting is relatively modest, the absence of this critical seed money would cripple the system and bring its services to an end.

Photo/Video credit: Getty Images/PBS