PBS Commercialization: The Comcast, Kidvid and Sprout connection

Next month, PBS’s Sprout is celebrating its one-year launch with a self-proclaimed birthday bash. Sprout is a channel aimed at pre-schoolers. It has advertising and is a commercial venture. PBS was lured into the deal in part by Comcast, which was seeking cheap-to-buy and already in the can “family-friendly” content for its cable TV systems (including its video on demand service). By agreeing to this deal, PBS ultimately embraced a more commercialized, monopoly-media dependent model for its future. Instead of protecting children from an advertising culture, PBS helped to enhance it. (PBS wasn’t alone in wanting such a deal. Some of its children’s TV producers, who actually control the rights to programming, wanted an outlet beyond the limits of PBS broadcasting. )

The September Sprout “anniversary” (as they are touting it) should be accompanied by some serious reflection at PBS headquarters, its stations, and producers like Sesame Workshop. They are helping lead PBS further down the wrong path during this critical time of transition in the digital video era.

Author: jeff

Jeff Chester is executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy. A former journalist and filmmaker, Jeff's book on U.S. electronic media politics, entitled "Digital Destiny: New Media and the Future of Democracy" was published by The New Press in January 2007. He is now working on a new book about interactive advertising and the public interest.

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