The Biggest Star of the Presidential Debate Was 8 Feet Tall

According to the Social Network, Kred, a San Francisco-based company that measures online influence, Big Bird, the most notable star of the educational program Sesame Street, was the most memorable character in the recent presidential debate. 

During the debate, both candidates, President Obama and Governor Romney, worked to distinguish himself. In doing so, Romney declared he would reduce government spending by not funding PBS.

What is PBS? 
PBS is a non-profit American public broadcasting television network with 354 member TV stations nationwide. According to a Roper Poll, it’s one of the most trusted institutions in America. The organization, headquartered in Virginia, receives $445 million from the federal government or 1/100 of 1 percent of the federal budget.

Here is an excerpt on federal funding from the PBS website: 

Federal funding is critical seed money for PBS’ member stations — which are locally owned and operated — supporting mission-driven programming and initiatives, particularly among underserved groups like rural populations who would not otherwise be able to access what public television stations provide. This includes content that expands the minds of children, documentaries that open up new worlds, non-commercialized news series that keep citizens informed on world events and programming that brings the arts, theatre and music to people wherever they live.

Public Television in Oklahoma: OETA
In Oklahoma, OETA is the PBS affiliate. The organization receives $1.5 million in federal funding and a state appropriation from the Oklahoma Legislature. That appropriation has been cut 26 percent since 2009, from $5.2 million to $3.8 million. The appropriation represents about .5 percent of the state’s $6 billion budget.

Last year, Oklahoma HB 3039 proposed to reduce OETA’s state appropriation by 20 percent each year for the next five years. The intention was to eliminate government funding to OETA. The bill was withdrawn during the first few weeks of session because of lack of support; however, the bill was never taken to committee for a vote, so it is still an active bill in the committee’s possession and remains a threat for next year.

The legislature reconvenes in January 2013 and will meet until around mid-May.

Don’t Kill Big Bird Mantra
The great thing about Kred it is a great way to see all the social media action around large events like a presidential debate. Kred provides a visual history of any hashtag or trending topic. When Romney said he’d cut PBS, Big Bird emerged once again as the unofficial mascot of public television.

The “Don’t kill Big Bird” mantra, frequently heard in debates about government funding of PBS re-emerged and gained steam on Twitter. During the debate, about 17,000 tweets per minute were sent out featuring the phrase “Big Bird” and about 10,000 featuring “PBS.” Some of the tweets included humorous, although unauthorized, images of Big Bird including a politicized parody (left).

The following day (Thursday, October 4), Big Bird made headlines in news reports nationwide.

According to Kred, Big Bird is rarely mentioned on Twitter, but the debate ignited fan support. More importantly, it’s given PBS national center stage and an opportunity to talk about the benefit’s of the public’s investment in educational programming.

Oklahomans for the Arts

Oklahomans for the Arts works to increase support for public funding for arts and culture in Oklahoma. We support OETA and the Oklahoma Arts Council among other agencies and commissions receiving public funds.

Please help us advance our mission by joining OFTA today. You can join for just $25. Students join for $10.

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