The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

January 22, 2014

Have public access?: Other state residents have no access like Enid

By Dale Denwalt, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — While the city of Enid’s public-access television station is governed and operated by a nonprofit entity — PEGASYS — other mid-sized cities in Oklahoma are different.

The city of Norman, for instance, dropped its local content production several years ago. City Clerk Brenda Hall said the city still has a government channel provided by Cox Communications, and the city controls what airs.

“But we do not do any community broadcasting or anything like that now,” she said. “Years ago, we used to have community programming, where if you were in the community and you wanted to do a little 30-minute segment, and it met the criteria, then we had the community producers.”

After a contract renegotiation, however, the parties decided to drop the program.

“Basically, now it’s just for playing of our city council meetings and planning commission meetings. Then we run a bulletin board of city information the remaining time,” she said.

In the previous agreement, which was technically a franchise agreement with the cable company, Cox provided funds to maintain a studio. Now, there’s no place for a studio to exist. Hall said she’s currently drafting a policy for what’s put on Norman’s channel 20.

“Currently, we don’t have a means for anybody to be able to (create their own content). We may put information on our bulletin board, but as far as somebody doing an actual program, producing and getting it aired on channel 20, we don’t have a vehicle for that right now,” Hall said, adding she doesn’t foresee that happening again.

Enid’s setup is a nonprofit organization overseen by a local board of directors. Operational funds are provided by the city from a franchise agreement with cable provider Suddenlink. PEGASYS traditionally has had a studio and editing bays, where members of the public can shoot and produce their own content for transmission over the station’s channels.

In Stillwater, the city has maintained an agreement with Suddenlink “for a long time,” said Sherry Fletcher, Stillwater director of marketing and public relations. The public channel is maintained by the city’s PR department and content on it exclusively is government-produced.

Meetings of the Stillwater City Council are replayed on the channel, and it also features public service announcements. Again, there’s no venue for residents to put their own content on the station.

“We do not do that,” Fletcher said.

Another mid-sized city, Bartlesville, has no community venue.

“We don’t do anything like that. All we have here is strictly for (government) meetings,” systems administrator Jessie Tabler said.

Anything else would have to be handled through cable provider CableOne, he said.

“All we do is broadcast our council meetings, and CableOne handles that as part of their franchise agreement,” said Tabler. “As far as I know, we don’t have a public access where people get on and do their skits and stuff like that.”

Some sources list about 18 public-access channels in Oklahoma. Many are operated by educational institutions.