Groups ask PBS, WGBH to end sponsorship relationship with Chick-fil-A

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Three high-profile organizations have announced a campaign to urge PBS and WGBH to drop the sponsor Chick-fil-A from the children’s show Martha Speaks.

In a joint statement Wednesday (May 23), the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, Public Citizen and Corporate Accountability International said that in 2011, 56 million Chick-fil-A Kids’ Meals were distributed in Martha Speaks co-branded bags, and those meals “can contain as much as 670 calories, 29 grams of fat, and 25 grams of sugar.” The groups also said the Chick-fil-A sponsorship “marks the first time advertising before and after a PBS children’s show has run simultaneously with an in-restaurant promotion.”

They posted an online petition, addressed to PBS President Paula Kerger and WGBH President Jon Abbott, that as of Thursday afternoon had 1,980 signatures.

A case study from the Sponsorship Group for Public Television (PDF) details the “unique partnership … between popular PBS Kids series Martha Speaks and quick service restaurant chain Chick-fil-A,” which it says runs through December 2014.

PBS and WGBH provided this statement to Current in response:

“PBS and WGBH are committed to improving children’s literacy through the curriculum-based content in programs such as Martha Speaks, an award-winning series proven to boost literacy skills. In seeking funders to support the costs of producing our high-quality children’s programs we are grateful to have partners who also support our educational efforts and mission of extending learning to children wherever they may be. Chick-fil-A does this through its sponsorship of Martha Speaks. As part of Chick-fil-A’s support of the series, they have distributed more than 4 million books, as well as 4.5 million printed pieces that feature educational activities and content from the series to promote parent-child interaction. The brief on-air messages for Chick-fil-A comply with PBS’s strict guidelines for sponsors of children’s programs — the message is in support of educational programming on PBS and is aimed at parents, not children. In addition, there is no call to action and no product is shown.”