Author Topic: Sesame Workshop/HBO, The Fred Rogers Company and the influence of commercialism  (Read 2263 times)


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An entertainment lawyer once told me, “If you want to play the game, you have to follow the rules—you need to be willing to compromise.”

Children’s television (private, and now to a degree, public) is FIRST a moneymaking industry. The current industry has shifted in the last decade into a content distribution business (rather than a pure content creation business). Production companies want to make something once and sell it as many times as possible for maximum profit. They also want characters that can be marketed to children for a variety of products. For a live action host to be appealing to a production company/network he or she needs to essentially be a live-action (very happy) cartoon. Also, it’s a lot easier to test for outcome and validity with cognitive based curricula vs. social-emotional curricula.  There are exceptions to these rules, which have been grandfathered in to the system (i.e. Sesame Street), but programs that deal exclusively with the social-emotional needs of young children and their parents, teachers and caregivers, are all but gone.  There are alternative options if we look to independent producers (i.e. The Mother Company’s Ruby’s Studio), but there is a price.  Certainly quality programming costs money to produce, but what about the families who simply don’t have the additional income to invest in these resources?  In no way do I mean to demonize the developers and producers of mainstream children’s media. Again, you need to be willing to compromise if you want to play the game.

However, history shows us that commercialism influences content. Programs that are developed to enhance the mental wellbeing of young children should be guided by one thing and one thing only- developmentally appropriate practice. But, believe you me- that is a really tough sell.

Fred Rogers once said that those of us who appear on television daily should consider ourselves an extended family member of the people watching at home and that we must earn the trust of each family and never take advantage of that trust. He also said toward the end of his career (in the early 2000s) that if he was starting out in today’s market he wouldn’t make it. In my opinion- The Fred Rogers Company now produces programs that reflect very little of the legacy that they claim to carry on in his name. And they do this because of commercial influence. They had to compromise to have a voice in the current industry. If you watch the original Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood back to back with Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood and then Peg + Cat and then the Odd Squad you can see the devolution of what was once truly worthy of children.

Sesame Street is no stranger to making money off of their consumers- excuse me- I mean children. And to be fair if you want to be on PBS you have to raise the majority of the funding. PBS covers just 10 percent of the annual cost of new production.

This move from public to private will lead to other compromises that won’t seem like a very big deal, but will slowly step further and further away from the core values of what made the original educational PROGRAM worthy of the child. Instead we’ll just have another SHOW. Another step closer to another watered down, superficial piece of stimulation and distraction that teaches our children how to consume.  Today’s children- our children deserve more than that.  I don't want to compromise.


« Last Edit: August 18, 2015, 06:38:28 PM by DannyJoe »
Danny Joe