The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

March 18, 2013

OETA deserves to be spared from more legislative assaults


Enid News & Eagle

— According to the lyrics for “Sesame Street,” friendly neighbors reside there and “everything’s A-OK.”

Life for the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority is anything but A-OK after the network narrowly survived a recent defunding attempt.

The educational “Sesame Street” is just one of the important programs OETA airs, along with the excellent period drama “Downton Abbey” and the popular “Antiques Roadshow.”

In reality, Big Bird is probably less threatened than OETA’s statewide newscast and additional local programming, according to the Tulsa World. We hope the network is spared from further legislative assaults.

It’s been a rocky road for OETA in the Legislature, where a growing number of lawmakers don’t view the network as a core function of government. Aren’t there more important issues to address?

Although lawmakers recently killed a proposal to slowly reduce state funding, the bill’s author said the agency still could be phased out of existence, according to The Associated Press. Rep. Tom Newell believes OETA should compete in the free market.

OETA reportedly received about $3.8 million in state funding the past two fiscal years, which accounts for about 36 percent of its overall budget. The bill would have reduced that funding by at least 5 percent for the upcoming fiscal year, and at least 10 percent for each of the next two years.

The agency already has seen its state-appropriated budget slashed from $5.2 million in fiscal year 2009 to $4.4 million in 2010 and $4.2 million in 2011, according to AP.

Last year, the agency reportedly faced extinction when members of the Republican-controlled House narrowly approved a bill that allowed OETA to continue to exist as a state agency until 2014.

Regarding Newell’s latest barrage, Rep. David Dank, R-Oklahoma City, rightfully noted not everyone could afford cable TV.

“I can’t believe what we do out here,” Dank said, according to the Tulsa World. “We’re shooting gnats with cannons.”

House Democratic Leader Rep. Scott Inman told AP legislators had an opportunity to send this bill back to the garbage can. Ironically, that’s where Oscar the Grouch lives.