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October 5, 2012

Big Bird: what has Mitt Romney got against PBS?

Sad news, Sesame Street fans. That meanie Mitt Romney wants to cut funding for PBS, the public television network that has broadcast Big Bird and her fellow Muppets since 1970. "I like PBS, I like Big Bird," he claimed during Wednesday's presidential debate. "But I'm not going to keep on spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for."

In the US, the threat prompted much pain and suffering. "Yo Mitt Romney," said someone purporting to be Big Bird on Twitter. "Sesame Street is brought to you today by the letters F & U!" Now another Big Bird impersonator wants to run for president in protest. They've even mocked up a version of the Obama Hope poster that replaces Barack's face with Big Bird's.

Over in Blighty, the news prompted a more confused reaction. What the dickens is PBS? Is it the same as the BBC? Well, yes and no. PBS stands for Public Broadcasting Service, and it's a bit like the BBC, in that it provides ad-free, free-to-air television to 170 million Americans, some of whom couldn't otherwise afford to watch the box. It has a focus on educational programmes such as American Experience, which explores US history; kids' shows such as Sesame Street; and investigative documentaries such as Frontline. PBS Newshour is its flagship news programme – and is seen as a more serious affair than many of its rivals – while Charlie Rose is the network's equivalent of David Frost.

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