Benton Stands With Toby to Say "Don't Delete Big Bird"

A couple weeks ago, an adorable seven-year-old boy named Toby complained that President Donald Trump is “deleting PBS kids” just to pay for the wall. Toby told U.S. Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR), “he shouldn’t do that.” The young boy received massive applause for standing up to his Senator, the President, and for what’s right. At this town hall, Senator Cotton said you could have both – a Mexican wall and PBS.

But today it turns out that Toby was right. President Donald Trump unveiled his budget proposal, titled, “America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again.” Disturbingly, the plan calls for the elimination of federal support for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Trump's budget makes citizens pay for the wall while eliminating CPB and the shows that millions of kids like Toby depend upon every day. The elimination of federal funding, which wouldn’t even make up a fraction of the costs of the President’s border wall, would “initially devastate and ultimately destroy public media’s role in early childhood education, public safety, connecting citizens to our history, and promoting civil discussions for Americans in rural and urban communities alike,” said CPB President Patricia Harrison.

The vast majority of CPB’s budget goes towards helping local public broadcasters deliver news and information, a tremendous benefit that averages only $1.35 per citizen per year. It is easy to imagine that under President Trump’s proposal, wealthy metropolitan areas would likely be able to continue to support their public stations, while poorer rural areas — places that lack access to quality news programming to begin with — would lose out. "Small and rural stations serving underserved populations would be the first to feel that impact and would be hit hardest," said Anne Brachman, CPB's VP of government affairs. That should give pause to a number of Republican representatives.

The White House’s budget director justified proposed cuts to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting by saying that it’s not fair to ask a “single mom in Detroit” or a “coal miner” to pay for it. But these are the citizens who benefit most from early childhood education programs and education and job training programs produced by public broadcasting networks like Kentucky Educational Television.

My grandfather, former U.S. Senator William Benton who founded the advertising firm Benton and Bowles, once said, “If [we] do not develop … broadcasting in the cause of education, it will, perhaps, be permanently left in the hands of the manufacturers of face powder, coffee and soap, with occasional interruptions by the politicians."

It’s time to push back hard against any proposal that threatens public broadcasting and the vital services it delivers throughout the country.

Let’s not take Big Bird away from kids like Toby.

By Adrianne B. Furniss.