Clip Job: an excerpt every day from the Voice archives.
July 16, 1970, Vol. XV, No. 29
‘Sesame Street’ Learns It’s Paved with Gold
By Carol B. Liebman
The Children’s Television Workshop, producers of “Sesame Street,” was attacked this spring by tv critics of the Times and the Daily News for “cashing in” on its success. The criticism was aimed at two exploitations of the “Sesame” magic: the marketing by Time Life Books of a “Sesame Street” “learning kit,” and the use of Kermit the Frog to host “Hey, Cinderella,” a children’s special on ABC. The two cases pose difficult questions about the financing of non-commercial television and the corrupting tendencies inherent in relationships between public broadcasting and commercial activities.
Despite the success of “Sesame Street,” CTW executive director Joan Ganz Cooney and her staff still face the annual chore of putting together funding from a variety of foundation and government sources. But unlike previous public broadcasting efforts, CTW has the opportunity to tap new sources of revenue through a vast commercial market which has opened up as a result of the program’s success.
Potential marketers of “Sesame Street” products are already swamping CTW with their pitches. The assaults range from the hard sell (“if you don’t have your ‘Sesame Street’ tiles on the market by next fall you’re missing the chance of a lifetime”) to the Robin Hood gambit (“let us sell to the middle-class and you can give the proceeds to the poor”).
Some businesses do not bother to make an arrangement with CTW before trying to cash in on the show’s popularity. A New Jersey company has been circulating a promotional brochure for “Sesame Nursery Centers” which uses the same print styles as CTW literature and offers “SESAME Nursery Center tested and approved products using the characters and graphics especially created for this educational pre-school program.” Had CTW not learned of this venture and called in its lawyers, we would have been able to purchase apparel, watches, children’s furniture, dolls, food, games, inflatables, jewelry, outdoor gym equipment, party goods, ride-ons, and vitamins, all carrying a label carefully designed to mimic “Sesame Street’s”…
[Each weekday morning, we post an excerpt from another issue of the Voice, going in order from our oldest archives. Visit our Clip Job archive page to see excerpts back to 1956.]