The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

November 2, 2011

Public TV targeted

Republican lawmaker takes aim at OETA funding

Enid News and Eagle

— As more state and federal agencies compete for fewer and fewer dollars, the issue of funding of public television or public radio always come up.

This time it is OETA’s turn. Oklahoma’s public television system now is the target of a Republican lawmaker who says it is time to stop funding the public television system with taxpayer dollars.

Rep. Leslie Osborn, R-Tuttle, said the state should be putting the nearly $4 million it appropriated this fiscal year to the Oklahoma Television Authority into core services, such as public schools, roads and safety.

A few other lawmakers have piled on as well, saying they disapprove of some of the programming on the channel. Their objections are silly and merely a distraction; however, there is a core issue that states and public television proponents have to come to grips with.

Just how valuable do taxpayers feel public television is?

Many states, like Oklahoma, have cut funding to their public television stations. Several other states, according to information provided by Osborn, have been able to do better than Oklahoma in raising private funds for the public broadcasting channels. OETA’s private funding has fallen from $6.9 million in fiscal year 2007 to $5.52 million this year.

Most people can agree there is worthiness to having a public broadcasting channel such as OETA. The channel reaches nearly 2 million viewers in Oklahoma. The channel provides a broad range of cultural programs, as well as some very popular programs, such as the Civil War series.

When the state started cutting allocations to OETA, they believed viewers would come forward and pick up the slack. Yet, they haven’t, not to the extent OETA needs them to.

The fact is, channels like OETA can never be completely privately funded. If the state cuts its funding completely, the channel will die, and that would be a true cultural loss to the state.

Lawmakers listen to their constituents. If the constituents believe public broadcasting is necessary and needs to be funded, they need to let their representatives know. They need to send emails, make telephone calls and write letters in support of the funding.

In times when there is a real demand for curtailing spending both on the state and federal levels, every program is under scrutiny. A case can be made for keeping the public funding in public broadcasting. That case needs to be made by the taxpayers to the lawmakers.