Mitt Romney’s assault on PBS and Big Bird during the first presidential debate lit up the Internet with tweets and posts about the fate of this beloved Sesame Street character, one that I too, as a father of four, cherish. But the response goes beyond Sesame Street. It resonates because the American people understand that we have a debt not because of public television; we have a debt to public television.
Over the course of a year, 91% of all U.S. television households — 236 million people — tune into their PBS-member station. Federal funding accounts for about 15% of the money necessary to make public broadcasting possible. For every dollar in federal funding invested in local stations, they raise an additional $6 on their own, including contributions from millions of people who voluntarily support their community-based work. It’s such a tiny, tiny part of the federal budget, approximately 1/100th of 1%, that you have to question, why pick on that?