PBS takes advantage of debate’s ‘Big Bird’ moment

October 5, 2012
Category: Uncategorized

Mashable | The Huffington Post | Chicago Sun-Times | USA Today
PBS bought the term “Big Bird” on Twitter, so anyone searching for the term would see an ad for an advocacy site it’s set up. “PBS could teach other brands a thing or two about how to turn a meme into a marketing opportunity,” Seth Fiegerman writes.

In Wednesday night’s debate, Mitt Romney said he would eliminate the federal subsidy for PBS. In an interview with CNN Thursday, PBS CEO Paula Kerger said, “The fact that we are in this debate at all to me is incomprehensible.”

Kerger also fact-checked Romney — who she has tussled with before — pointing out that PBS doesn’t get any direct money 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.

Chicago Sun-Times TV critic Lori Rackl writes that trying to balance the budget by eliminating PBS’ subsidy is “like me saying I’m going to lose weight by trimming my nails.”

I realize that $445 million, no matter how small a blip on the budget, is still a lot of cash. But if Uncle Sam put all of our money to this good of use, I’d voluntarily climb into the next income-tax bracket.

Dan Schmidt of WTTW told Rackl federal money makes up, as Rackl terms it, “roughly 5 percent of WTTW’s $40 million annual budget, made up mostly of individual donations and support from corporations and foundations.” Schmidt said:

We’re one of the only places where everyone can have access to performing arts and cultural events. And we’re increasingly the only place where you can get a brand of journalism that’s right down the middle and in-depth.”

PBS allies stress the channel’s educational mission, which may be as savvy as the Twitter buy: Education was a top topic of tweets during the debate, USA Today reports.

Perhaps that’s what Big Bird will talk about if he accepts any of these invitations:

In Pew’s recent news-consumption study, most of the people polled said they prefer news delivered without a point of view. There’s no breakout for PBS products.

Related: Wednesday’s debate had more than 70 million viewers (The New York Times) | Format for Wednesday’s debates is “by far the worst” available (USA Today editorial) | Jim Lehrer defends his performance: “Part of my moderator mission was to stay out of the way of the flow and I had no problems with doing so.”