(That sound you hear is my late father, Philip Weinberg, turning over in his grave.)
My father, among other things, founded the public television station in Peoria, Illinois, with very little public money because he believed in 1971 that programs like Sesame Street and the Electric Company from the Children’s Television Workshop were important–and they should be freely available for free on free over the air television. Largely because things funded by the government should be free to its owners.
Granted, that was before the birth of HBO, ESPN or even CNN.
Back in those days, cable TV companies had vice presidents in charge of telling lies to city councils and other vice presidents in charge of telling the same city councils that the first guy lied.
And, over the years, one of the few bright spots in educational and children’s television were those aforementioned programs. They probably did more to prepare kids to learn than any combination of all day kindergarten and operation Head Start for a lot less money. And, ironically, they still do.
Now, I’m not Bernie Sanders. And, neither was my father.
And you can legitimately question whether or not we need public television in our brave new 500 channel world. I give my father’s former associates heartburn every time I write a column like this.
But, our problem here is that Sesame Street was designed to reach kids who might otherwise not be ready for school on the same schedule as their more affluent friends. In short, we’re talking about poor kids. And, in this economy, that is a lot of kids. You can sugarcoat it all you want, but we didn’t pay good public dollars to develop a new and innovative way to get kids ready for the classroom that actually worked so that only those kids whose parents could afford it would get first shot at it.
It was not HBO; it was Television.
You can get your television on a TV or on a smartphone or on a tablet or on a computer; but however you get it, it is still television.
We, the taxpayers, paid millions of dollars to help what used to be called the Children’s Television Workshop develop Sesame Street both directly and indirectly. Against the better judgment of many taxpayers, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting subsidized much of the infrastructure which put Sesame Street on the air and made it popular. And, finally, the people behind the Children’s Television Workshop played the tax exempt organization provisions of our tax code like a Stradivarius. Much better than the Tea Party.
As the Cookie Monster might have said, “me don’t want to pay no taxes when I’m working on Sesame Street.”
The fact is that Sesame Workshop, as it is now called, has executives making nearly seven figure salaries; and its cushy deal with HBO is built on the backs of the taxpayers who funded the original development of the program.
A much fairer version of this deal would be for HBO to donate the money to the Sesame Workshop, allow those shows to air for free on PBS stations and THEN put them on the network which advertises that it’s not television. (This program is brought to you by a grant from the letters H, B and O)
This deal is crony capitalism at its absolute worst, and for a conservative like me to have to call foul as opposed to Barack Obama—who you’d think would be concerned about poor kids being sent to the back of the bus—is an outrage. Can you see the irony here?
It’s not the biggest outrage which has happened in government even during the last week.
And nobody in the TV biz—either commercial or allegedly non commercial—wants to make Time Warner mad at them.
So the taxpayers and poor kids everywhere will probably get screwed.
However, I can’t help but think that my Dad would have said that this program was brought to you by the letters F and U. Next time I’m in Peoria, I’ll go on down to Springdale Cemetery and ask him.
The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by WesternJournalism.com.
This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Equipping You With The Truth