August 31, 2006

Barney vs. Free Speech

Filed under: Parenting, Politics — marcstober @ 10:09 am

It turns out that Barney, the purple dinosaur, is not all hugs and smiles as he is at the center of a legal battle over the right to parody him.

What is most disturbing to me is that Barney appears primarily on public television. I tend to think of public television as an institution that exists, among other reasons, to provide an alternative source of information that doesn’t depend on a profit motive. So it seems kind of hypocritical for a studio they employ to be starting intellectual property lawsuits for apparently commercial reasons.

Interestingly this isn’t the first time I’ve written about issues with PBS children’s shows not playing nice when confronted with real-world issues, and the common thread seems to HIT Entertainment, a childrens-media company owned by a private equity firm Apax. So, has PBS made a deal with the devil? I remember a time (maybe when I was kid) when it seemed appropriate to let kids watch PBS (but not other networks) because Sesame Street, et al didn’t seem so “bad” for them. These days, there doesn’t seem to be much of a difference.

I’ll probably keep sending a little donation to WGBH, but I should send a similar one to the EFF for pointing out this issue.

(The most interesting thing about Barney to me is that my two-and-a-half year old, who loved the show when she was one, has already outgrown Barney [and Teletubbies] for characters with more depth.)