She was responding of course to the 2012 controversy over Sesame Street’s Big Bird, when President Barack Obama’s campaign used the iconic character in a TV ad criticizing GOP candidate Mitt Romney for saying he would defund public broadcasting if elected.
Kerger said she remembered sitting at home watching the 2012 debates and “finding ourselves in the middle of a presidential election—not a place we had been before, and not a place we had been before, and not a place I hope to be in the future.”
Back to 2016, the executive today declined to comment on which candidate would be better for PBS in the White House, saying the pubcaster has supporters on both sides of the aisle. But she added that PBS is interested in what happens in “both the House and the Senate,” not just the White House: “Support has to come from all three places.”
Speaking about current election coverage, Kerger praised the new collaboration of NPR reporters with PBS NewsHour’s Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff and said the NPR partnership will continue. On PBS’ political coverage following the election, Kerger said she hopes “things wont become more restrictive about what can be covered.”
After a decade in the job of PBS president, Kerger said no one could have foreseen a hit like Downton Abbey or the opportunity to incorporate new platforms into PBS broadcasting. She said PBS will continue to expand its focus on education, kids and the arts. “I’m still smiling,” she joked.
Kerger acknowledged one thing she wished had been handled differently during her tenure: The decision to switch to visuals of past fireworks shows on the Fourth of July because weather hampered the view: “If a decision is made [to show something] in live event that is not live, you should label it as such,” she said. “The producer made a mistake His intention to create a good viewing experience was the right one — the mistake is they didn’t label it as such.” She noted it was fixed in subsequent broadcasts with a crawl.
Kerger said that PBS must be vigilant about such matters because “we are held to a different standard.”