Trickle-down kids' TV: Sesame Street will air on HBO 9 months before PBS

A show conceived to help low-income kids keep up with their affluent peers will now be "paywalled so that rich kids can watch it before poor kids can."

Some will say it doesn't matter, because the poor kids will get to see it eventually. An obvious rejoinder: if watching the shows 9 months early had no value, HBO wouldn't be paying for it. HBO execs believe that watching Sesame Street episodes nine months early is worth something, which means, of course, that watching it nine months later is worth less.

A more important rejoinder involves the Separate But Equal doctrine, and the fight over the fact that the mere knowledge that some children, by dint of birth, enjoy substantial privileges that you are denied, is itself corrosive to self-esteem and a major contributor to the achievement gap.

This turn of affairs comes from the austerity brought on by the economic crisis, which has deeply cut the public broadcasters on whom Sesame Street depends. In other words, the richest people in America, having first looted the world's bank-accounts through an act of incredible fraud, and then having benefitted from the bailouts that followed, and then having used the Republican Congress to create tax-breaks and preserve tax-loopholes, have so starved public services in America that programming created specifically to serve poor children must be optimized for the viewing of rich children, and delivered only to the poor children it was intended for after the children of the rich have tired of it.

In short, Sesame Street was founded to help low-income kids keep up with their more affluent peers. That is literally why it exists. It succeeded beyond anyone's expectations. And now it is becoming the property of a premium cable network, so that a program launched to help poor kids keep up with rich kids is now being paywalled so that rich kids can watch it before poor kids can.

That in itself is not a tragedy or an injustice. Tragedy is the devastating funding cuts that Head Start has suffered in recent years, affecting tens of thousands of young children. Injustice is the nationwide lack of subsidized high-quality child care and universal pre-K. In this context, relocating Sesame Street to the gated community of HBO—even if that community's gates swing wide at nine-month intervals—is only to be expected. There could be no more cruelly perfect metaphor for the ultra-efficient sorting processes of socioeconomic privilege.

Why Sesame Street's Move to HBO Is Both Great and Extremely Depressing [Jessica Winter/Slate]

(Thanks, Fipi Lele!)