During last week’s debate Mitt Romney pledged to cut all funding for PBS, including Big Bird. Although Romney pitched the cuts as a deficit reduction measure, all funding for PBS accounts for less than 1/100 of 1% of the budget.
Funding for public broadcasting has been under attack from the right for decades. In this clip from 1969, the late Fred Rogers — the creator of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” — gives an impassioned defense of federal funding for PBS. At the time President Nixon wanted to cut a federal grant to PBS in half.
Rogers explains how his show differs from for-profit cartoons directed at children:
I give an expression of care, every day to each child to help him realize that he is unique. I end the program by saying, ‘You’ve made this day a special day by just your being you. There’s no person in the world like you, and I like you just the way you are.’ I feel that if we and public television can only make it clear that feelings are mentionable and manageable, we will have done a great service for mental health.
Sen. John Pastore, who chaired the hearings, said he got “goosebumps” from Rogers presentation and pledged to maintain the funding.