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TMCNet:  EDITORIAL: State should continue OETA funding at modest level

[January 30, 2013]

EDITORIAL: State should continue OETA funding at modest level

Jan 30, 2013 (Tulsa World - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Lawmakers are back at work, and once again thoughts turn to trimming or ending state funding for the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority.

Support for OETA in the Legislature clearly is waning, as state Sen. Jim Halligan, R-Stillwater, noted during joint Senate-House education budget hearings Monday. A growing number of lawmakers apparently believe that public television is not a core state service.

Halligan didn't say it, but a measure of legislative opposition to OETA is really directed at the National Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which Republicans have long opposed because they see its programming as liberal and anti-Republican.

OETA receives about $3.8 million a year in state funds, a modest appropriation that amounts to about a third of its budget. OETA Executive Director Dan Schiedel says that the appropriation works out to about $1 per year for each Oklahoma resident.

It's true that the nature of public television has changed in recent years. When it was created in 1953, OETA filled a dual role. It was a provider of educational programming used by schools statewide, and it made television available to vast areas of the state that were not served by commercial broadcasters in the largest cities.

Much of the type of programming provided by OETA is now available from cable and satellite sources. And very few if any areas of the state remain inaccessible to commercial TV.

But OETA is still of value. Its educational mission continues. It provides access to high-quality programming, from "Sesame Street" to the masterful Ken Burns documentaries on such topics as the Civil War and baseball that are unlikely to be matched by commercial TV. And it provides even-handed coverage of the Legislature that is far more in-depth than any commercial broadcaster could hope or want to do.

We believe that the Legislature should continue to fund OETA at a modest level. And if lawmakers insist on doing away with its state support, they should phase it out gradually over a few years to give the agency time to make up from other sources the loss of a third of its budget.

___ (c)2013 Tulsa World (Tulsa, Okla.) Visit Tulsa World (Tulsa, Okla.) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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