How Do You Get to Sesame Street?

Now that first-run episodes of the children’s classic show Sesame Street are moving to HBO, parents are either going to have to subscribe or wait nine months before their kids can watch new episodes on PBS. Is it a big deal? Depends. Moms are used to waiting nine months for a baby, so maybe not so much for them… And, maybe your toddlers are a lot smarter than mine were, but I seriously doubt that my kids would have known if Cookie Monster were eating stale cookies on PBS and fresh ones on HBO.

The New York Times quoted the Parents Television Council about their feelings: “Kids are getting squeezed in the middle,” said Tim Winter, president of the Parents Television Council, a nonpartisan education group that advocates for responsible entertainment. “In order to watch original episodes of the most iconic children’s program in television history, parents are now forced to fork over about $180 per year and subscribe to the most sexually explicit, most graphically violent television network in America. I can’t imagine a greater juxtaposition in television than this.”

That could be a legitimate concern because, let’s be honest, most parents are putting their kids in front of the TV so that they have time to take a shower or load the dishwasher. (I remember). It’s possible that a 4-year-old could accidently catch an episode of Game of Thrones and have his world view forever altered while his mom is brushing her teeth.

Of course, don’t most people record things or watch them on demand? Viewing technology has evolved so much since my kids were little that I really can’t say what I would be doing with toddlers running around.

But that doesn’t solve the issue of personal values that the Parents Television Council alludes to.

I’ll be honest. My initial reaction to this announcement was not about the kids. They don’t care whether the kid with HBO is learning about the letter Q while the one without premium channels is still back on letter M. It made me sad that the non-profit Sesame Street had to go begging to HBO, and that quality children’s programming has become a marketing carrot. Parents may skimp on themselves, but they don’t skimp on their children. If the pay channels can gather up great children’s programming, then they know the parents are going to cough up the dollars to pay for it.

When I first heard this news, the whole matter gave me a sick feeling. Again, not because kids will know the difference, but because it creates a problem of perception. Kids whose parents are well off can know what happens to Elmo before kids whose parents can’t afford HBO. It’s an ugly reality that the inequalities of class permeate our culture. Does money have to be the way to get to Sesame Street?

Categories: Editor’s Blog