Advocates Attack ‘Sesame Street’ Sponsorship

BOSTON Sesame Street, long one of the Public Broadcasting Service’s flagship shows, has come under fire for airing corporate sponsorship messages from McDonald’s.

Commercial Alert, a nonprofit public advocacy group backed by Ralph Nader, has sent a letter to Gary Knell, president and chief executive of the show’s production company, Sesame Workshop, asking that McDonald’s messages not be shown before or after episodes of the children’s series.

The letter from Commercial Alert president Gary Ruskin accuses McDonald’s of selling high-calorie offerings “that have helped to cause an epidemic of childhood obesity and soaring incidence of type 2 diabetes.” He goes on to ask: “Is it really the proper role of Sesame Street to seduce young children to nag their parents to take them to McDonald’s? Should you not promote healthful eating habits rather than junk food eating habits?”

Knell responded in a letter that states, in part: “By providing critical funding for our educational content, McDonald’s has helped ensure that our work can continue.” By providing funding, McDonald’s helps to ensure that the show’s educational mission continues, the fast-food chain said in a statement.

Portland, Ore.-based Commercial Alert last month filed complaints with the Federal Trade Commission and Federal Communications Commission, asking for new rules requiring TV networks to disclose which companies have paid for product placement in programming.