Local Politics

UNC students cry foul at Big Bird on budget chopping block

Posted October 7, 2012

— Two University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill business majors are capitalizing on the furor that flew after Mitt Romney suggested defunding the public television stations that air Big Bird.

The Republican presidential nominee mentioned the 8-foot, talking canary who stars in "Sesame Street" by name when discussing cutting taxpayer money for the Public Broadcasting System.

"I like PBS. I love Big Bird," Romney said. "But I'm not going to keep on spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for it."

UNC freshmen Andrew Bauer and Taylor Robinette were among those who quickly took to social media to express dismay over Big Bird's potential demise.

"I just remember Big Bird and how happy he made me feel and other Americans feel," Bauer said. "When Mitt Romney took a shot a Big Bird, he was taking a shot at all the Americans that cared about their childhood hero."

"I'm an 18-year-old college kid, and I still love Big Bird," Robinette said.

Bauer and Robinette started FireBigBird.com to sell T-shirts in three designs. Two of the T-shirts show Big Bird in a caricature of the 2008 Obama campaign logo, above the words "Hope" and "2012." The third T-shirt shows a despondent Big Bird sitting slumped next to a box, holding a sign saying that Romney fired him.

"I realized that I had to spread the word about Big Bird and saving him, and that's what we've done," Bauer said.

UNC students capitalize on saving Big Bird

Bauer and Robinette campaign to quickly turned into a lesson in entrepreneurship.

Within a day, hits on their Web site were in the thousands, and they sold out of one T-shirt. "Globally, we're getting Web site views in Australia, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Serbia," said Bauer.

Their motives aren't partisan, the two said.

"This wasn't a political issue for us. We're not big Romney fans. We're not big Obama fans," Bauer said.

Bauer and Robinette are applying the lessons about sharing that Big Bird taught them. They're donating 100 percent of the profit from the T-shirt sales to charities, including the Make-a-Wish Foundation.

"Not only did we see a great opportunity to have some social impact and give money to charity, but we also do treasure the Big Bird icon," Robinette said.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • artist Oct 12, 2012

    "... Uhhhh, have you actually watched PBS recently? They have plenty of ads at the beginning and end of each show....slowpoke4333"

    So true.

  • dick4sanchez Oct 12, 2012

    Another example of why the reduction of respect UNC-ch continues across the country. We have actual issues and this is their public face?

  • josephlawrence43 Oct 9, 2012

    In reality, government funding to Public TV isn't that much. They receive most of their money from corporations, foundations and the annual telethons. If they can't make it on that money then maybe they don't need to be on the air.

  • plmelton Oct 9, 2012

    The use of the Big Bird image on the t-shirts makes it seem that the makers' business courses omitted the concept of copyright infringement.

  • dianejames22454 Oct 9, 2012

    Would be nice if the "T-Shirt" proceeds were donated to PBS to help with the continued funding of Seasame Street, although I am inclined to agree with the reader who pointed out that Big Bird has big money sponsors and suggest that Big Bird doesn't need public assistance.

  • Da Toy Maker Oct 8, 2012

    Uhhhh, have you actually watched PBS recently? They have plenty of ads at the beginning and end of each show, albeit not quite as in-your-face as other channels. And they are advertising things like Chuckee Cheese, which hasn't exactly joined the ranks of "healthy eating." Watch UNC-KD for about 3 hours you will see that you can't argue this fact.

    No. I have not watched PBS/UNC TV lately. Thanks for telling me. That is sad that they start doing that. I guess they start to look at ways to get more funding.

  • Nancy Oct 8, 2012

    From the Washington Post article discussing congressional members that proposed/fought legislation depending on it's impact on family/friends/themselves:

    "Last year, for example, when Republicans attempted to slash funding for public broadcasting, Rep. William L. Owens (D-N.Y.) was among a group of Democrats who fought to stop them. Owens’s wife is an executive at a public television station, one of nine public TV and radio outlets that broadcast into his district in Upstate New York. Owens disclosed her job when he spoke briefly on the House floor opposing the proposed cuts."

  • computer trainer Oct 8, 2012

    I was wondering why we have been supporting Big Bird for 40+ years when he has endorsement deals in the millions!!!

  • computer trainer Oct 8, 2012

    Andrew Bauer and Taylor Robinette, now much money have YOU contributed to PBS??

    At some point in time, you have to stop spending money that you do NOT have.

  • JohnFLob Oct 8, 2012

    ". . . In fact, if you don't occasionally reflect on happy memories, you've really got problems. . . . "
    miseem October 8, 2012 12:48 p.m

    I do not have any problems that a little R & R [Romney & Ryan] can not solve.