Critics have pounced on Gov. Mitt Romney's debate statement that he will cut funding toPBS, even though he says he likes Big Bird. Democrats have tried to characterize his anti-Muppet statement as cold and heartless, but a 2011 tax return reveals Big Bird made enough money last year to put himself in the one percent earnings bracket.
The 2011 IRS 990 form for Sesame Workshop (formerly the Children's Television Workshop), the producers of Sesame Street, revealed that they received $7,968,918 in government grants last year. That sounds like a hefty amount, but the 990 also revealed that Sesame Workshop received $44,984,003 in royalties last year, which includes sales of Sesame Street brand merchandise like "Tickle Me Elmo" dolls. That means Big Bird made five times in merchandise sales than what he received in government grants.
An even closer look at Sesame Workshop's finances shows the government funding Romney wants to cut is only a small part of their budget and may not be necessary at all. In 2011, Sesame Workshop received $31,555,192 in grants and donations last year apart from the U.S. government. They also raised over $2 million in additional funds from various fundraising events. In all, Sesame Workshop raised almost $34 million in private funds for Sesame Street, aside from government grants.
In addition, Sesame Workshop brought in almost $30 million in revenue from content distribution and media production. In total, Sesame Workshop brought in over $122 million in revenue, not including government grants. On their website, Sesame Workshop claims corporate, foundation, and government support make up 35% of their budget. Realistically, however, government funding only accounts for just over 6% of their budget.