More than just Big Bird at risk if Mitt Romney cuts PBS funding

In addition to being an awards aficionado, I am also a big follower of politics. Other than the presence of “Game Change” at the Emmys, I did not think there would be much crossover this election cycle. But in keeping with the craziness of this campaign, the crossover happened at the first presidential debate.

For those who did not see it or have been avoiding all coverage of either campaign, Gov. Mitt Romney (R-Mass.) brought up federal funding of public television as something he would eliminate in order to cut the deficit. Romney then said, “I like Big Bird,” and added that he admired the program hosted by moderator Jim Lehrer

Big Bird is featured on “Sesame Street,” which has won more awards for best program than any other TV show, racking up more than 30 victories at both the Daytime and Primetime Emmys as Best Children’s Show, Best Pre-School Program, plus others. It ahas amassed a total of 137 Emmy wins and 206 nominations since debuting in 1969. 

Romney needs to realize that it’s not just the children’s educational programming that he would be hurting by eliminating federal subsidies to public television. PBS has been responsible for some of the highest quality television that’s currently out there and I’m not the only person who thinks so. The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences will back me up on this.

Since 2000, PBS has racked up an impressive 354 Primetime Emmy nominations and has won 98 trophies. The past two years have been especially good for PBS at the Emmys thanks, in no small part, to “Downton Abbey” and “Sherlock”.

This year, PBS earned 58 nominations (more than NBC, CBS or FOX) and won seven awards. Last year, the pubcaster received 43 nominations (more than either ABC or FOX) and netted 14 wins (more than any broadcast network). 

While “Masterpiece” productions have been responsible for many of those wins, one cannot forget the impact that Ken Burns has had on the fortunes of PBS. His documentaries that are exclusive to the network have brought critical praise, great ratings and Emmy gold time and time again.

And let us not forget that a lot of these programs are regularly viewed by seniors and they are the most reliable voting bloc in every election. Romney may not want to rile them by messing with what many of them view as the only bastion of quality television left on the airwaves.

And if Romney does end up winning and his cuts to public broadcasting end up interfering with “Downton Abbey,” he’s going to have to contend with the wrath of all of us awards nuts!

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