Saving Big Bird: A Political Issue?

Big Bird

Big Bird leading the parade at Sesame Place
Big Bird leading the parade at Sesame Place | Source

History of the Muppets and Big Bird

In a world filled with strife; hunger, terrorism, financial crisis, global warming, warring nations, is it time to do away with Big Bird?

Back in 1954 a gentleman named Jim Henson created "The Muppets". In 1955 the Muppets appeared on various adult TV Shows and one, Rowlf the dog, became a regular on the Jimmy Dean Show. Some of the Muppet characters were subsequently sold to the Sesame Street Workshop. But what about Big Bird? He was one of the original characters on Sesame Street in 1969. He's an eight foot two inch bird that lives in a large nest behind 123 Sesame Street and next to Oscar's trash can, and he has a teddy bear named Radar. By the way, Jim Henson designed Sesame Street because he believed TV could teach children how to read and write though the show was actually created by Joan Ganz Cooney and Lloyd Morrisett.

What Does Big Bird Do?

Big Bird teaches children the alphabet but he also teaches them about life. He portrays a 'curious child' which small children can relate to. Caroll Spinney originally played Big Bird but as he has aged various other actors have filled in.

He's taught children how to resolve conflicts and recently Big Bird has been tackling the topic of bullying and showing children they have the power to deal with bullying, how to identify signs of bullying and what to do when you are bullied.

Big Bird's popularity has led to him receiving a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1994.


A 1996 survey found that 95% of all American preschoolers had watched the show by the time they were three years old.

In 2008, it was estimated that 77 million Americans had watched the series as children.'

As of 2009, Sesame Street has won 8 Grammy Awards and 143 Emmy Awards—more than any other children's show.

By its 40th anniversary in 2009, Sesame Street was broadcast in over 120 countries

(All according to Wikipedia)

Is Sesame Street Educational?

But as we know it really isn't Big Bird that is at stake right now, he has just come to symbolize Sesame Street, that wonderful Children's show on Public Television, and Public Television itself. The main problem is, through the years Sesame Street has successfully taught and/or encouraged thousands of children to read. Children have learned the alphabet, new vocabulary, how to count, and more. Wikipedia tells us that Jim Henson 'was able to take "arcane academic goals" and translate them to "effective and pleasurable viewing".'

According to the Educational Research Center in a study done in 1990;

"Three studies by the Educational Testing Service on Sesame Street's first two seasons determined that among children who watched Sesame Street, those who watched the most scored highest on an achievement measure; frequent viewers made more cognitive gains than infrequent viewers; and teachers rated viewers as better prepared for school than nonviewers. Results from two longitudinal studies indicated that Sesame Street viewing predicted improved vocabulary scores, and Sesame Street elicited more verbal responses from children while they were viewing the show than did other shows. Results from other studies showed that Sesame Street viewing produced substantial gains in children's vocabulary, letter and number recognition, and printed word identification; and preschoolers who viewed Sesame Street learned to cooperate better than did nonviewers."

A 1997 study (again by the Educational Research Center) states; "Vernon C. Hall, Karen S. Chiarello, and Beverly Edmondson also showed that television can have positive effects on literacy... Educational television increases literacy, while non-educational television limits it."

According to Wikipedia, "As of 2001 there were over 1,000 research studies regarding its [Sesame Street] efficacy, impact, and effect on American culture."

After reading the last statement I'm sure you'll agree we're not going to be able to settle that debate here....however, whether you're for or against Sesame Street you have to know that Big Bird and his friends have helped children all over the world learn to read....and is Sesame Street the only program on Public Television? Certainly not. I wanted you to have a little knowledge about Big Bird and Sesame Street as we go forward.

Further, just for your information, here's a quote from PBS'

“Over the course of a year, 91 percent of all U.S. television households tune in to their local PBS station. In fact, our service is watched by 81 percent of all children between the ages of 2-8."

How to Get to Sesame Street

Who writes the check?

Source

Who Pays for PBS?

The company that produces Sesame Street gets money from many sources. Here’s what Sherrie Westin, Sesame Workshop executive vice president and chief marketing officer, told CNN:

“Sesame Workshop receives very, very little funding from PBS. So, we are able to raise our funding through philanthropic, through our licensed product, which goes back into the educational programming, through corporate underwriting and sponsorship. So quite frankly, you can debate whether or not there should be funding of public broadcasting. But when they always try to tout out Big Bird, and say we’re going to kill Big Bird — that is actually misleading, because Sesame Street will be here.”

From the Times Union Blog;

"We get it: Romney will starve out the freeloading feathered friends at the Public Broadcasting Station (which is a weird thing to say, since the station runs almost entirely on viewer donations)."


So Why was Big Bird in the News?

In the 2012 Presidential Race between Barrack Obama and Mitt Romney, Presidential candidate Mitt Romeny said during adebate, and I quote, “I like PBS. I love Big Bird. I actually like you, too. But I’m not gonna keep on spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for it.”

President's Obama's camp countered with a video to save Big Bird. Sesame Workshop said, in an official statement, to both of them;

"Sesame Workshop is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization and we do not endorse candidates or participate in political campaigns. We have approved no campaign ads, and as is our general practice, have requested that the ad be taken down."

Stop the Madness

Source

Time to Stop the Madness

With a little less than a month left before the Presidential election our nation became involved in a mini-war about Big Bird and Public Television. Really? Yes. If we're borrowing money from China Mr. Romney wouldn't that be more of a concern than paying for PBS? Do you really think cutting Public Broadcasting is going to solve this Nation's Budget woes? It was said Mr. Romney was concentrating on one one hundredth of one percent of the budget!

And you Mr. Obama...of all the things Mr. Romney has or hasn't said, found the most important thing to jump on was about Big Bird! Really? What about the freedom to choose (or lose) MEDICARE? What about allowing students to choose their own schools? What about raising the retirement age...will it stop at 80?

I seriously think there are more important issues than Big Bird's fate, especially when there are millions of people that are not going to let Big Bird get ready for the Thanksgiving table! Starvation across the world is more important than Big Bird's fate. This entire incident only shows what American political campaigns have come to.

Heaven help every American who is faced with a future and leaders like Obama and Romney.

Copyright Tillsontitan - All Rights Reserved

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Comments 46 comments

Faith Reaper profile image

Faith Reaper 4 years ago from southern USA

Amen on this one Mary! Let's stop this madness, and I mean really. This is an excellent hub to show the reality of it all ----this really absurd big mess. Voted up and away God bless you dear one. In His Love, Faith Reaper


Janine Huldie profile image

Janine Huldie 4 years ago from New York, New York

Mary you said a mouthful here and oh my god so true. I can't argue enough that this had to be an ignorant comment made by Mitt Romney, but for Obama'a camp to jump on it for their own gains when there are so many more issues at the heart of this country and election year is ridiculous. Thank you for sharing this and getting to the point so well here. Have voted, shared and tweeted too!


cclitgirl profile image

cclitgirl 4 years ago from Western NC

Your hub made me smile. :) Kudos to you for these honest and honorable words. :)


billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

Way to go, Mary! Tell it like it is! I have been shaking my head for days over this being a campaign issue. These two guys just don't get it....they live in some alternative universe that you and I will never visit. I am disgusted with politics, as you well know, and I'm wondering what options I have for the election....other than to write myself in, or course. LOL

Thank you for a timely article that hits home.


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 4 years ago from New York Author

Keep smilin' CC it ain't over till the fat lady sings ;)

You keep jokin Billy but we're all writing you in! This whole election is a joke! Glad you enjoyed my hub!


ImKarn23 profile image

ImKarn23 4 years ago

Sigh...so sick of the corruption and bullshit..

you said it all here - ridiculous comment - ridiculous agenda - ridiculous aftermath..

i wrote a poem called "A" Stands for Adios Big Bird...

check it out if you get the urge..

voting up/across...


Jackwms profile image

Jackwms 4 years ago

I had hoped to keep my hub posts non political and I hope I don't go too far here. But, I agree with your post big time. Public Broadcasting, including Big Bird, is money well spent and only a small, small fraction of that spent on wars and war preparation. Romney knows that. The truth is that many on the far right believe that Public Broadcasting has a liberal bent and they want to silence it.

Good hub


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 4 years ago from New York Author

I so agree with you Im and I will check out your poem.

Jack, it is so difficult NOT to write about politics when this nonsense goes on and on day after day. I agree that money spent on Public Broadcasting is not wasted and should continue, I don't agree (of course) it should be a major campaign issue. Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting.


lrc7815 profile image

lrc7815 4 years ago from Central Virginia

This is such an important election. You asked if Obama couldn't find something more important to jump on Romney about. I'm sure there is/was but...I also think it spoke volumes about Romney, that he would chose to threaten PBS when we have so many government agencies being mismanaged and over funded. As has been pointed out, PBS receives most of their funding from us, the public sector and the programming they provide is educational and entertaining without brainwashing commercials from the big corporate retailers. Every time I hear Romney speak I am struck by his shallowness. Obama, not perfect, but a less frightening choice in my opinion. Great hub!


fpherj48 profile image

fpherj48 4 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

BRAVO!!!!!!!!! Tillie....In your own very unique and no-nonsense manner, you have said what most are thinking....you have pointed out the ludicrousness of Political sparring. Basically, gf, you have said it ALL, perfectly. Not another word is needed....except....UP + UAI !!! & shared


Glenn Stok profile image

Glenn Stok 4 years ago from Long Island, NY

It's great that you wrote this to clear things up for those who are being misled. As you quoted from the Times Union Blog, [PBS] runs almost entirely on viewer donations.

So Romney's statement about not borrowing money from China to support things was confusing people. He inadvertently mentioned Big Bird. But you cleared that up -- PBS does not really fall in to that category.

Besides all that, it is important to stop borrowing from China. We need to end that practice before China forecloses on the U.S. when we can't pay it back. Do we really want our country to be owned by China?

You also said that "President's Obama's camp countered with a video to save Big Bird." This is a common practice I've seen with Obama misleading the public. Our tax money does not support PBS anyway, as you clarified in your hub.

Great information, voted up and useful.


Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 4 years ago from Texas

Just a clarification here....federal tax revenue is appropriated to PBS and the money is used as seed funds for local affiliates...some to the tune of 40-50% of their operating budget. The last figure I saw for annual appropriation was $440 million dollars from the federal government. Given the fact that little of that money goes directly to the production of Sesame Street, it does have a direct impact on how many markets the show will air in based on the local affiliates ability to stay afloat without federal fund grants. I believe this goes to the root of Romney's consideration as to whether we can afford to continue to borrow money from China to fund such items....no harm directly intended at Big Bird. Most of you have seen local affiliate pledge drives to pull in support funds for operations. Like me, you have probably sat there and watched but did not pledge any funds. That pretty much sums it up....we are not willing to make pledges as individuals but we have no problem criticizing a potential leader who might take those funds away in the interest of reducing our borrowing from foreign governments like China. Maybe we all need to pony up a bit more at the local level and get some of these affiliates out of the public trough. ~WB


Glenn Stok profile image

Glenn Stok 4 years ago from Long Island, NY

Wayne, Well-said. And as for the federal tax revenue appropriated to PBS, I stand corrected.

Many people don't realize that Romney is not against Big Bird, or any other recipients of entitlements. All he is trying to make clear is that fi we don't have the money, we can't keep borrowing just to pay entitlements.

We first need to clean up the debt, just as is true for any individual who gets into trouble spending more than they make.

The lender is the one in control, and that is not a good situation to be in. Romney understands finances and the repercussions of borrowing endlessly. It has to end somewhere and Romney does not want China taking over the U.S.


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 4 years ago from New York Author

Irc, its like all of politics, hogwash! They both need to focus on the real issues at hand. Thanks for reading, and glad you enjoyed.

And you Effer have hit the nail on the head as always, LUDICROUS!

Glenn, thanks for stopping by and commenting. It's nice to know others see this as I do...both politicians are being ridiculous.

Wayne, PBS or no PBS, it seems outrageous to me that this country is borrowing money from anyone, much less China. We GIVE money to; Afghanistan, Israel, Egypt, Haiti, Russia, and Indonesia...to name a few! In my opinion PBS is just a scapegoat in this area. Thanks for reading and leaving such a thoughtful comment.


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 4 years ago from New York Author

Glenn thanks for returning... I understand what you are saying and while Wayne is correct in that PBS does get $440 million from the US Gov.'t, it is .012 percent of the federal budget of $3.796 trillion...somehow I don't think it will close the budget gap very much. There are other areas we could be looking at. For example the money we have been giving to Egypt has averaged about $2 billion a year since 1979...a lot more than we are giving to PBS, and, the children in the US do not benefit from that money at all! I think this is a debate that could go on Ad infinitum...or Ad nauseum depending on how you look at it!


caltex profile image

caltex 4 years ago

"It is said you are concentrating on one one hundredth of one percent of the budget Mr. Romeny!"

True, it may be minimal, but when you're looking for ways to cut spending (a proven strategy of companies who successfully turned things around), you look for things that you can do without, no matter how small of an amount they cost. Cutting off funding to PBS is one practical move, considering it will surely survive without it. Does anyone think Romney will just stop there? I think he will continue looking for even the smallest amount of savings and these small amounts will add up and save us big in the long run.


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 4 years ago from New York Author

You make a very valid point Caltex, however, one would think during a campaign it might better serve the candidate to talk about cutting something of more import to the entire country...you are certainly right about the smallest amounts of savings adding up.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 4 years ago from United States

Interesting hub and responses. I think we are all tired of the nonsense when our country has such serious problems. Obviously PBS was a bad example. We do need to quit borrowing from China and giving money to countries that hate us. We need jobs! We need to reduce the debt! Glen made some good points.


Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 4 years ago from Texas

Hey, Tillie, you and I are in agreement in many ways on your response. We have plenty of evidence in our history to show that U.S. tax dollars thrown around in the Middle East are not buying us any loyalty or friends. In fact, I would think behind closed doors too many of them are laughing at the fools that we have been....really what has changed since Jimmy Carter went down in flames with his hostage crisis? If we took the bridle off of our domestic resources, those folks just might have to cut back on their spending...but first, we have get a patriot into the White House. Thanks much! ~WB


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 4 years ago from New York Author

You are so right Pamela and I'm glad you came to read.

Wayne, we definitely are in agreement...so much needs to be done in so many areas! I appreciate what you are saying and am so glad you stopped here and became part of this hub and it's comments! Thanks friend.


unknown spy profile image

unknown spy 4 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up.

hi mary. i salute you for writing this one. your title is really catchy!


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 4 years ago from New York Author

Thanks Unknown.


Cogerson profile image

Cogerson 4 years ago from Virginia

Very nicely done...I was reading about the 1 million Muppet March that they are trying to put together....that should be interesting. I will do whatever it takes to save Curious George and the Cat in the Hat....they are helping me learn so much stuff....lol. Voted up and interesting. I agree with unknown spy....catchy title.

And by the way....per your request....Liam Neeson now has a hub if interested in checking out..

http://cogerson.hubpages.com/hub/Liam-Neeson-Movie...


Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

Glimmer Twin Fan 4 years ago

Maybe I'll write in Big Bird when I go to the polls! (just kidding) Good hub.


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 4 years ago from New York Author

Are you kidding? A million muppet march! I'm headed over to read about Liam Nesson...you're such a great guy for doing his hub first!

Glimmer, Big Bird may be better than the choices we have ;)


midget38 profile image

midget38 4 years ago from Singapore

Loved big bird, but you are right, there are bigger issues at hand than his fate. Thanks for the write, Mary, and I share as well.


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 4 years ago from New York Author

Thanks for the share Michelle.


Vincent Moore 4 years ago

OMG what's next? Politicians will go to any lengths to feed their agenda for securing a vote. I think this is taking it to far. PBS is such a tiny part of the budget overall. Give me BIG BIRD any time over the choices of candidates chosen for the Presidency? My kids grew up with Sesame street and it played such an important role in their early education. Jim Hensen has to be turning in his grave, RIP Jimmy boy, Americans won't let it happen. I am so sick and tired of political childish grandstanding. Amen to this wonderful exposure of this dam billionaire Mitt. We are in deep trouble with either of these choices for President. It comes down to who is the worst Tyrant? Tweeted and shared.


Rfordin profile image

Rfordin 4 years ago from Florida

I just dont get all the crap assocaited with this.... PBS is constantly running telethons and the like to support themsevles. I should know often times on Sunday mornings when my kids crave a dose of 'the bird I see telethons being broadcasted for PBS supporters (or another worthy cause). PBS is safe... NO WAY would anyone in their right mind try and take it away regardless of cost...for goodness sake I grew up with Big Bird and the crew on 'the street, my kids are too and hopefully so will their kids. GRRR Politicians.....

~Becky


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 4 years ago from New York Author

I agree Vincent, we're in a mess of 'stuff' with these guys. I hope Jim Henson can't hear or see this nonsense! Thanks for tweeting and sharing.

The scary part Becky, is that Romney would even think about it!


Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 4 years ago from Orlando, FL

Absolutely Save Big Bird! I have to tell you that was one entertaining debate. Twitter was on fire with Big Bird tweets. Who is this Romney person? Haha!


Ruchira profile image

Ruchira 4 years ago from United States

Great and inspiring write up. Gotta save this big bird. We all love him :)

This will be a big trump for Obama towards victory!


KDuBarry03 4 years ago

I honestly think both political parties are jumping on guns for election that shouldn't be jumped on. Yes, I'm extremely concerned about the deficit in the US, jobs, income and Medicare and the future of my home; however, does Big Bird really need to be broadcast ads about it and honestly talk about it during the campaign? There are larger issues to be addressed than the Big Bird situation.


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 4 years ago from New York Author

I don't know SS, I heard he might be running for some big office ;)

Ruchira I think Big Bird would get more votes than either Obama or Romney!

You are so right Keith...that is what my hub is all about, start worrying about the REAL issues at hand!


lrc7815 profile image

lrc7815 4 years ago from Central Virginia

Written with appropriate passion and well researched. I echo your opinion. As a supporter of public television, I was frustrated over Romney's ridiculous remark but equally frustrated by Obama's response to it. Frankly, I'm fed up with all things political but am too concerned about our future to turn my back and walk away. Great hub!


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 4 years ago from New York Author

Boy do I agree with you Linda...my sentiments exactly!


2patricias profile image

2patricias 4 years ago from Sussex by the Sea

This caught my eye because my (grown up) son is called "Big Bird" by all his friends - and has been for years.

Now that I've read this I understand a bit of the arguement.

I always try to avoid politics on HubPages - mostly because emotion often gets tangled up with philosophy.

However, this is a balanced article, that brings out the sadness of this election.


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 4 years ago from New York Author

Thank you 2patricias. I totally agree and do not like to discuss politics on hubpages or off but thought this was balanced enough to keep me out of trouble ;)


Au fait profile image

Au fait 4 years ago from North Texas

The gov. contributes about 20 million $ to PBS, and that's a drop in the bucket compared to our overall budget. Generally politicians attack or use examples they know most people can wrap their minds around.

Most people can't comprehend the 7 Trillion $ bankers stole from the tax payers over the last few years, but they can understand $200 a month in Food Stamps. They know how much $200 is so they complain about the numbers they can understand. 7 Trillion $ may as well be a fairy tale to most people.

Compared to the 20 million going to PBS, 7 Trillion is real money, but most people just can't wrap their minds around it so they ignore it in favor of what they can understand.

Interesting hub. Voted up and will share.


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 4 years ago from New York Author

You are right of course Au Fait. Who ever even heard of "trillions" of dollars? We used to think "billions" was a lot! Thanks for stopping by and voting and sharing.


tsadjatko profile image

tsadjatko 4 years ago from maybe (the guy or girl) next door

WAIT A MINUTE! According to the latest Form 990 from Sesame Workshop, the educational nonprofit behind PBS’ “Sesame Street,” Big Bird puppeteer Caroll Spinney was compensated $314,072 in 2010. Spinney, who has been with the show since its inception, also provides the voice and puppet work for Oscar the Grouch. Seems make believe pays very well in this country. We need to get that message to all the college grads who can't find a job.

I think the government needs to send more money to PBS, don't you?


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 4 years ago from New York Author

Nobody ever said puppeteers were poor ;) Thanks for stopping by tsadjatko.


Millionaire Tips profile image

Millionaire Tips 4 years ago from USA

While we all think we should eliminate waste from the budget, we do have differing opinions on what exactly constitutes waste. You have raised some interesting points here. Voted up.


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 4 years ago from New York Author

Wow! You have hit the proverbial nail on it's proverbial head with that statement Millionaire! You so get the purpose of this hub!


my_girl_sara profile image

my_girl_sara 3 years ago from Georgia

I think Sesame Street has a bigger PR problem...how do they replace Elmo? I discuss the issue in my blog http://mygirlsara.hubpages.com/hub/What-Will-Happe...

I love Sesame Street! It will always be a part of my happy childhood!


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 3 years ago from New York Author

I totally agree Sara, but when I wrote this hub no one knew about Kevin Clash's accusers.

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