Last updated: October 12, 2012 - 8:10am
It has been a strange week for public television executives. Meetings have been postponed. Trips have been canceled. And conversations have turned in urgency to, of all things, Big Bird. The turn of events can be traced to Mitt Romney’s pledge at the Oct. 3 presidential debate to “stop the subsidy to PBS,” and the subsequent political jousting between him and President Barack Obama over the fate of the iconic “Sesame Street” character. The give-and-take has brought new attention to the public financing of television and radio and has elevated it to an election issue, much to the dismay of PBS and local stations that say they are nonpartisan and would like to stay that way. The public broadcasting budget has long been a target of Republicans in Congress. Paula A. Kerger, the PBS chief executive, however, said she could not recall a time when a presidential candidate had opposed the financing in so public a forum. The public television executives caught in the middle say the issue is drawing far more attention than it truly merits.
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