Why Big Bird’s Federal Subsides Need to Go

The call to eliminate federal subsidies to the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), such as Governor Mitt Romney’s recent statement, shouldn’t ruffle the famous fowl.

After all, not only does PBS not need taxpayer support, but because it inevitably entangles Big Bird in politics, it does him more harm than good.

Federal contributions to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), which distributes money to PBS, totaled $444 million in FY 2012. While that may not be a lot in Washington, which spent a whopping $3.54 trillion that year, it is real money to most Americans.

But ending these subsidies wouldn’t break the bank for public broadcasting. In FY 2010 (information available to date), the CPB subsidies amounted to only 15 percent of public broadcasting station’s total funding. Other sources included listener and viewer contributions, university and foundation support, and business underwriting. Sesame Street itself received only $1.4 million in a federal grant through CPB in FY 2012.

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