How Much Is Big Bird Actually Worth?

Steven Hayward posted an article at Power Line today about President Trump’s plan to cut funding for Public Broadcasting. The article illustrates the fact that in some cases, executives of nonprofit organizations make salaries that don’t sound as if they are appropriate for an organization that is nonprofit.

The article reminds us of two conflicting statements made by NPR about their budget:

On average, less than 1% of NPR’s annual operating budget comes in the form of grants from CPB [the taxpayer-funded Corporation for Public Broadcasting]  and federal agencies and departments.

…Federal funding is essential to public radio’s service to the American public. Its continuation is critical for both stations and program producers, including NPR. . . Elimination of federal funding would result in fewer programs, less journalism—especially local journalism—and eventually the loss of public radio stations, particularly in rural and economically distressed communities.

Both of those statements cannot be true. I have no idea which one is.

The article further reports:

According to tax filings — the most recent of which covers 2014 — then-president and CEO Melvin Ming was paid more than $586,000 in salary and benefits in the nine months before retiring, which included a $37,500 bonus and $18,700 in benefits. The year before that, Ming cleared $672,391 in salary, bonuses and benefits.

That’s five times the average pay for CEOs at nonprofits, according to Charity Navigator. (It’s twice as much as the CEO of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting gets paid.)

The average compensation for the other 10 top officials at Sesame Workshop in 2014 was a very handsome $382,135 — which is about six times the median household income in the U.S.

Big Bird is big business. The article states:

Last year, Sesame Workshop had $121.6 million in revenues. Of that, $49.6 million came in distribution fees and royalties and $36.6 million in licensing of toys, games, clothing, food and such. In 2014, only 4% of its revenue came from government grants.

I suspect there are other programs on Public Broadcasting that would do quite well if they chose to market items related to their television shows. I truly think it is time to give the free market the chance to work its magic in the area of Public Broadcasting.

Does Big Bird Need Taxpayer Money ?

As a grandmother who has purchased numerous ‘Tickle Me Elmo” stuffed animals, Big Bird Books, and various Bert and Ernie dolls, and watched numerous fund raisers on PBS (and occasionally donated), I wonder why Public Broadcasting still needs my tax money. Well, I may have found a clue in an old news article.

In March of 2011, Jim DeMint posted an article at Fox Nation detailing some of the financial information of the Public Broadcasting Network.

The article reports:

...The executives at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), which distributes the taxpayer money allocated for public broadcasting to other stations, are also generously compensated. According to CPB’s 2009 tax forms, President and CEO Patricia de Stacy Harrison received $298,884 in reportable compensation and another $70,630 in other compensation from the organization and related organizations that year. That’s practically a pittance compared to Kevin Klose, president emeritus of NPR, who received more than $1.2 million in compensation, according to the tax forms the nonprofit filed in 2009.

I will admit that normally I don’t care how much executives make–that’s between them and their stockholders–but this is a non-profit organization which receives large amounts of taxpayer money (much of which is borrowed from China and will eventually have to be paid back by the children watching Big Bird!). As taxpayers, we are funding this. Is this the best possible use of resources?

The article further points out:

 Meanwhile, highly successful, brand-name public programs like Sesame Street make millions on their own. “Sesame Street,” for example, made more than $211 million from toy and consumer product sales from 2003-2006. Sesame Workshop President and CEO Gary Knell received $956,513 in compensation in 2008. With earnings like that, Big Bird doesn’t need the taxpayers to help him compete against the Nickleodeon cable channel’s Dora the Explorer.

 I had not considered the fact that Dora does not receive taxpayer money, yet seems to be doing very well. I have seen numerous Dora the Explorer backpacks, coloring books, and other goodies among my grandchildren’s toys.

It truly is time to stop borrowing money from China to fund Big Bird.

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Some Common Sense On The Campaign Trail

 

Me wit elmo

Image via Wikipedia

The New York Daily News reported today that Mitt Romney has stated that if he is elected President, Big Bird is going to have to do his own commercials.

The article reports:

Romney said he’s a fan of the Public Broadcasting Service, the government-funded nonprofit that carries “Sesame Street,” but that “it’s immoral for us to keep spending money we don’t have and passing on to our kids our obligations.”

He added that he would maintain endowments for the arts and humanities, “but they’re going to be paid for by private charity not by taxpayers — or by borrowers.”

“Sesame Street” currently has a constellation of public and private sponsors. Corporate sponsors of the program include Beaches Family Resorts, Earth’s Best organic foods, PNC, United Healthcare and the Good Egg Project, according to the website of Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit educational organization that produces “Sesame Street.” Taxpayer support for the program comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the U.S. Department of Education, among others.

This is not an endorsement of Mitt Romney. It is, however, an illustration of the difference in thinking between a businessman and a politician. I bought two of my granddaughters counting Ernie’s for Christmas. Someone made a profit on them. Someone made a huge profit on tickle-me-Elmo a few years ago. Why can’t those profits support Sesame Street and other PBS programming? Why shouldn’t the Public Broadcasting Service have to find a way to make its programming profitable?

 

 

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