The one thing a lot of people took from the big presidential debate was Republican President Mitt Romney saying that he was going to cut federal funding from the American Public Broadcasting Service or PBS.
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The internet promptly shit a brick, declaring that Romney was going to "Kill Big Bird."
Well, no, Big Bird probably doesn't have anything to fear from the loss of federal funding, and here's why.
Money from the US federal government, about $450-$500 million a year, goes from the federal budget to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB). The CPB then divides that funding between publicly funded non-profit radio stations, and the PBS network, which gets about $250+ million a year, which is about 12% of the network's total annual budget.
Now 12% is a cut the PBS, and Sesame Street, could survive, and even thrive with.
Sesame Street, which is produced by the Sesame Workshop, makes approximately $50+ million a year solely from licensing the Sesame Street name and characters to toys and consumer products. That's not including the fees the Sesame Workshop make from franchising the show to different countries. And it's not like the people running the show are living in poverty, Sesame president and CEO Gary Knell made $956,513 in compensation in 2008.
So Sesame Street would survive a 12% cut to PBS funding.
So will Nature, Nova, Masterpiece Theater/Mystery, The American Experience, Frontline, and the documentaries of Ken Burns. They all have the capability of becoming self-sustaining through sponsorships by corporations, charitable foundations, and from DVD/VOD sales/rentals.
Will someone become super-rich from these shows? Probably not, but if you're concerned about getting rich you'd probably won't consider working for PBS.
In the long run losing federal funding could turn out to be good for PBS.
You see, the old maxim of he who pays the piper calls the tune is extremely true. If you take money from the government you really have no right to complain if the government wants to make you their bitch.
You see the involvement of government means that politicians and bureaucrats are involved in every aspect of decision making. Money that could go to making and broadcasting shows, is often redirected to paying for jobs no one needs, done by people no one wants. Programs can also become political hot potatoes when a large chunk of the population objects to having their money, involuntarily taken by taxes, used to make a show they find offensive, insulting, or politically partisan.
However, a non-profit broadcaster who doesn't take, need, or want government support is a hell of a lot freer. They aren't compelled to give jobs and spots on the Board of Directors to politician's cronies, and if someone complains about a show, the self-financed non-profit broadcaster can just tell them to go watch something else, they're not paying for it.
PBS should be actively striving for independence from government funding. Then it can do whatever the hell it feels like without having to worry about politicians meddling with their money and their lives.