The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Opinion

January 9, 2014

Enid’s PEGASYS issue is about transfer of power

ENID, Okla. — The days could be numbered for PEGASYS as we know it.

The public-access television station, founded in 1986, is a mostly independent nonprofit agency funded by the city of Enid.

In the pre-digital 1980s, community producers were plentiful, and the programming was popular.

Now PEGASYS is in the spotlight as some question its sustainability.

After joining the PEGASYS oversight panel, new Ward 6 City Commissioner David Vanhoser took aim at the station. This happened after commissioners approved $240,000 to move the agency from the now-razed Kress building to The Non-Profit Center.

The city currently spends $185,000 supporting annual operations and payroll for PEGASYS.

Scrutinizing the public’s benefit from those city funds, the commissioner wants to fold PEGASYS into the city’s public relations department under PR Director Steve Kime. By putting it back under the city’s control, commissioners would be in charge of what to keep, what to cut and what to expand.

The nonprofit’s board of directors and Executive Director Wendy Quarles’ position would be eliminated.

Vanhooser also wants to cancel funding for The Non-Profit Center move, and instead spend around $100,000 on a studio elsewhere.

PEGASYS provides independent transparency by broadcasting city commission and board of education meetings.

If the agency’s current affiliation with the city ends, equipment likely would revert to the city’s sole ownership and two current employees there would become city employees.

Critics, questioning why the city manager and commission oppose PEGASYS, could perceive this as a City Hall power grab.

“The (city of Enid) does not have enough to do and it wants another agency to run,” said PEGASYS Board member Bill Maxwell. “The commission believes it can confiscate the public, nonprofit entity and convert it into a city propaganda machine.”

By the end of this month, the PEGASYS board will vote on whether to award the construction contract.

Ultimately, this is about transfer of power. Who is in charge: the PEGASYS board or the city commission?

And how autonomous would PEGASYS remain under the direction of City Hall? Would it still provide citizens an independent voice or become a municipal mouthpiece?

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