The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Local news

June 25, 2013

PEGASYS skeptical: New commissioner takes aim at community-access station in board meeting

ENID, Okla. — David Vanhooser told the PEGASYS Board of Directors that he didn’t plan on being negative, especially since Tuesday was his first meeting since joining the public-access television station’s oversight panel.

The new Ward 6 city commissioner has been a vocal critic of the city- funded entity, specifically since the commission approved $240,000 so it could move from the Kress Building to a space in The Non-Profit Center, and another $185,000 to keep the station operating. He was appointed to be Enid City Commission’s representative last month.

During Tuesday’s PEGASYS board meeting, Vanhooser questioned whether the station has many viewers and said Channel 19, a community bulletin board, is not beneficial.

The discussion began as PEGASYS Executive Director Wendy Quarles mentioned a telethon on tap for September.

“So you’re anticipating being able to raise money on something that nobody’s watching?” Vanhooser asked.

Quarles had argued that the purpose of PEGASYS was never to bolster viewership, but rather to provide public access and help people make their own shows.

“Oh, they’re watching. They are watching,” she replied to Vanhooser. “They are definitely watching.”

The exchange continued when Vanhooser asked Quarles how she knows people in Enid are watching the station.

“Because everybody that’s been on has said, ‘Everywhere I go, people say I saw you on PEGASYS,’” Quarles said.

Vanhooser fired back, saying that anecdotal evidence is “not very scientific.”

“I get people who say they saw me at the commission meeting also, but when you sit down, that’s about five,” he said.

PEGASYS Board Chairman Tony Negast said the city still broadcasts commission meetings, despite a lack of concrete proof people are watching.

Vanhooser also asked for records showing who uses the station to learn video editing and shooting, and who reserves studios. The hope, he said, is that more than a handful of people constantly are utilizing PEGASYS.

“If you’re claiming that you’re providing $60,000 worth of benefit to the community, I’d like to see who that is that’s benefiting from it,” Vanhooser said.

Negast voiced his opinion on creating and distributing a list of anyone who meets that criteria.

“I personally think it’s a waste of manpower to do that. That’s just me,” he said.

Vanhooser continued his criticism of the station and its almost 30-year-old mission.

“PEGASYS’ charter was written in 1985. That was before YouTube, before handheld cellphones, before every 15-year-old kid in this town has an HD camera in his pocket. And he can be published and on the Internet in 30 minutes,” he said. “So, the actual purpose of PEGASYS, in the beginning I think, has much outlived its usefulness.”

PEGASYS is not a bad thing, Vanhooser said, but he wants to make sure the taxpayer-funded entity is benefiting the public in an appropriate way.

“I would challenge you that we have such a poor viewership that we’re not actually accomplishing the mission that you think we are,” he said. “Obviously, I’m being fairly negative about this today, but I’m looking at it purely from the perspective of the city dollars being spent for public benefit.”

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