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The residents of "Sesame Street" are about to get a new address: Mando, Rosita, Elmo, Grover, Big Bird and all the rest of our favorite friends on the street are moving to premium cable network HBO, which has agreed to bankroll five seasons of the show.
HBO's involvement in "Sesame Street" will bring in enough money to produce twice as many new episodes per season and spin off new programming. In theory, it sounds like a win for everyone.
Maybe you think "Sesame Street" moving to HBO is no big deal because, in the end, it will still be available to all kids even if they don't have HBO (well, assuming they have access to a television, or devices for streaming episodes). The poor kids will get the episodes eventually — nine months later, to be exact, when they finally air on PBS and through streaming apps. Maybe you assume everyone has cable these days? That's not so. More and more people are cutting the cord. My parents still don't have cable and, to be honest, at the highway robbery to the tune of $180 a month, it's not cost effective for me either.
The Sesame Workshop that we've all grown up knowing and loving is a nonprofit and has been struggling financially due to declining revenues from licensing and DVD sales. Currently, PBS only accounts for about one-third of the iconic educational show's viewership. Nowadays, most kids stream the show or watch on-demand.
The issue I have is that the show was developed in 1967 during the War on Poverty specifically to level the educational playing field between children who came from money and those who had none. The War on Poverty was the result of the Economic Opportunity act of 1964, which established Head Start, Job Corp and the Social Security Act of 1965; all done to help give the poor a hand up.
"Sesame Street" was created to help kids from low-income families keep up with kids from more affluent families, and now, HBO is going to make it available to the kids with money first, before the kids who can't afford cable… obliterating the original mission and purpose of the series. Without shows like "Sesame Street" available to all children equally, the gap widens between those children who come from money and those who don't. It's our perpetual societal problem: the haves versus the have-nots.
In 1967, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting was established and PBS was born. During this time, public television producer, Joan Ganz Cooney, got the idea for Sesame Street. It wasn't about making money; it was about making sure that children weren't punished for a lifetime just for having the misfortune of being born of parents in the wrong socioeconomic class.
Ganz Cooney raised $8 million from the CPB and the U.S. Department of Education to found the Children's Television Workshop. The entire mission of its flagship show, "Sesame Street," was to teach basic alphabetical and numerical concepts to children ages three to five — all children, regardless of how much money their parents made or if they were a minority.
Ganz Cooney's dream was that television could deliver early education to some of the poorest and most culturally deprived households. "Sesame Street" could help close the gap between affluent children and their lower-income peers — and it did. I am living proof.
I was one of those poor kids. I grew up in a blue-collar home. My dad was a factory worker and my mom stayed at home with six children. Both of my parents graduated from high school, but neither attended college. My father's first language was not English and my mother is from the South. Public broadcasting shows like "Sesame Street" and "Electric Company" were available to all children, including those like me whose parents couldn't afford cable or other ways to provide early learning opportunities.
Basically, "Sesame Street" was created to help kids from low-income families keep up with kids from more affluent families, and now, HBO is going to make it available to the kids with money first, before the kids who can't afford cable… obliterating the original mission and purpose of the series. Without shows like "Sesame Street" available to all children equally, the gap widens between those children who come from money and those who don't. It's our perpetual societal problem: the haves versus the have-nots.
Some people think this is not a big deal, but imagine if from the perspective of a 5-year-old on his or her first day of kindergarten who doesn't know their numbers or letters because they were never exposed to early learning opportunities, and everyone else in the class has been. That humiliation is enough to scar even the smartest child into not trying. Not knowing would make you feel less than, and once a child has experienced that feeling, it's hard to convince them otherwise.
What are your thoughts on "Sesame Street" moving to HBO?