A Well-Lined Nest

Sesame Street, Big Bird not threatened by federal cuts

Wikimedia Commons

Big Bird is here to stay, records show, and is living quite well, despite the latest Democratic attack line.

Barack Obama’s Presidential campaign jumped on Mitt Romney’s comment that he would end subsidies for the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), which airs Sesame Street, during the Presidential debate last Wednesday. The campaign launched a TV ad today targeting Romney’s comments and the President has folded a similar line of attack into his stump speech.

Well before the debate, Romney called for PBS to "stand on their own," and it seems that the network and the children’s show it airs could: PBS receives little money from the federal government, and Sesame Street receives even less.

"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," said Sherrie Westin, executive vice president and chief marketing officer for Sesame Workshop.

"Sesame Workshop receives very, very little funding from PBS," Westin said. According to MSN, Sesame Workshop receives about two percent of its budget from the Corporation for Pubic Broadcasting.

And PBS receives only about 12 percent of its budget from the federal government, totaling a $445 million grant over two years.

"Eliminating the $445 million set aside in the federal budget for PBS would be a blow, no question. But it wouldn’t be the end," writes the Christian Science Monitor.

In any case, it appears Big Bird’s nest is lushly lined.

"Carroll Spinney, who has played Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch since the show's inception, earned more than $314,000 in compensation in 2011," reports MSN.

The money from the federal government is not even enough to fund top executives’ salaries for Sesame Workshop.

Former Sesame Workshop CEO Gary Knell earned $988,456 in the fiscal year that ended in June 2011, and the current CEO, H. Melvin Ming, made $584,572 during the same period, records show.

The federal government granted Sesame Workshop over $1 million under the President’s economic stimulus. As of the latest government report, the Workshop had created 1.47 jobs.

The Washington Examiner observes that the cost for this government investment has been "$726,000 per job created."