BIG BIRD BECOMES A NEWS ITEM
What has come to be called the Big Bird Debate has put the spotlight on PBS in an unexpected way — it has made Big Bird a celebrity news figure. Both the Sesame Street producers and PBS itself have pointed out that, contrary to Mitt Romney’s implication during last week’s presidential debate, Big Bird receives nothing from the government. Nor, in fact, does any program aired by PBS. In an interview with CNN, PBS chief Paula Kerger said, “In fact, the money that comes from the government into the Corporation for Public Broadcasting goes to our member stations.” Actually, several defenders of the public broadcaster have noted, the total amount of the government subsidy — $445 million — is comparable to the amount the government spends for its defense budget in a few hours. As Chicago Sun-Times TV critic Lori Rackl put it, eliminating the PBS subsidy to balance the budget is “like me saying I’m going to lose weight by trimming my nails.” Meanwhile, Big Bird reportedly has received invitations to be interviewed from a host of news programs and talk shows. He accepted one to appear on Saturday Night Live over the weekend. He said nothing even remotely political, however. Appearing on the “Weekend Update” segment with Seth Meyers, Big Bird remarked that following the debate he had received a million tweets. “So you’re on Twitter?” Meyers asked. “No, I’m a bird! Tweeting is how we talk,” Big Bird replied.