Elections 2012: PBS Responds to Mitt Romney, Defends Big Bird

During the first debate, Mitt Romney vowed to cut government funding for PBS, and now the television giant is responding.

The Republican candidate revealed his plans to end subsidies the Public Broadcasting Service during Wednesday night’s presidential debate, network chief Paula Kerger says she “just about fell off the sofa” out of shock. Photo: Mitt Romney/Flickr

In prime-time debates with his rival, Mitt Romney told moderator Jim Lehrer, a PBS newsman, who has worked for PBS since the 1970s, “I’m sorry Jim, I’m gonna stop the subsidy to PBS.”

He went on, adding, “I’m going to stop the subsidy to PBS. I’m going to stop other things. I like PBS. I love Big Bird. I actually like you too. But I’m not going to keep on spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for things we don’t need.”

PBS CEO Paula Kerger spoke to CNN’s Carol Costello on Thursday, and did mention the issue, saying: “With the enormous problems facing our country, the fact that we are the focus is just unbelievable to me,” she said. Later, she called it a “stunning moment.”

Kerger noted that theWednesday’s debate touched on education, and called PBS “America’s biggest classroom,” adding, “This is not about the budget. It has to be about politics.”

Kerger also fact-checked Romney pointing out that the television giant doesn’t get any direct subsidies from the government.

“In fact, the money that comes from the government into the Corporation for Public Broadcasting goes to our member stations,” she said.

However, PBS chief declined to praise or defend Lehrer, who has been tarred and feathered for his moderating, reports The Huffington Post. “It was a very complicated debate structure,” she said.

A company’s statement issued today, reads: “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.”

The television service also added in its statement that for almost 50 years it has embodied the main broadcasting mission to increase the power of mass media for the good of every citizen.

The statement from Big Bird claims: “Our system serves as a universally accessible resource for education, history, science, arts and civil discourse.”

”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.”

By the way, the candidate’s remark on the issue is not the first one to come from politicians and pundits who’ve turned the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which distributes money to both PBS and NPR, into a political punching bag.

Since the mid-1990s, government financing of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting has been a perennial front in the culture wars, and PBS’ programming, from “Teletubbies” to “NewsHour,” has been a controversial topic for its supposed liberal bias, writes The Los Angeles Times.

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