Sesame StreetPhoto courtesy of Googe Images

 

Opinion| Sesame Street Needs to Remain Free

 

HBO Max has gained exclusive streaming rights to Sesame Street as part of their expanding catalog.

 

 The service will be available starting May 2020 but there are some concerns with Sesame Street becoming locked behind a 15 dollar pay wall entirely.

 

HBO’s grab for Sesame Street is not to further the education of children who desperately need it, it’s to compete with other corporations for parent’s money.

 

Sesame Street began in 1969 as a way to improve and jumpstart the early childhood education of low-income children, and it did just that by being available on public television.

 

The CPB received tax payer money, which was then given to PBS. To restrict access to those episodes by putting them on a premium streaming services is unfair to the people who need Sesame Street the most. There are enough premiums on early childhood education as it is.

 

Parents struggle with knowing how and what to teach their children and Sesame Street has been a staple of the American childhood since the 1970s. Low-income parents especially can have faith that Sesame Street can help their children become more emotionally mature andencourage learning.

 

Sesame Street has been thoughtfully curated from the beginning to help parents educate their children by tackling difficult subjects like 9/11, disabilities and LGBT people in a way that is age appropriate. It has also been a way for children and families to see themselves on TV, whether through their race, religion or family makeup. They didn’t need HBO for that.

 

Trump has also made eliminating federal funding for the CPB one of his goals. The CPB funds PBS as well as NPR.

 

Sesame Street’s move to HBO began in 2015 and that gave HBO the right to air episodes first and later syndicate them to PBS. However, with the increasing price of streaming services the goal of helping low-income families seems to become a lower priority.

 

The move to HBO has brought many good things. They sought to increase diversity though representing characters who are disabled, most notably Julia who is a nonverbal autistic Muppet.

 

However, Sesame Street was doing a good job before HBO in their development of diverse characters, including an HIV positive Muppet named Kami for the South African and Nigerian version of the show.

 

But not only will the HBO produced episodes be exclusively streamed on HBO Max, so will the episodes they didn’t produce. That includes the episodes that were funded in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

 

Eliminating the funding would not totally decimate PBS and NPR but it could mean stations will have to go off the air. This could mean families in the poorest parts of the country lose their access to public broadcasting.

 

At the very least the episodes produced by CPB should be available to the public through perhaps a streaming service operated by PBS. It would be great to see Sesame Street to remain partially public funded, but that is likely no longer going to happen.

 

Hannah Richey
Contributing Columnist
hgrichey@uab.edu
Hannah

 

 

 

 

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