A local representative proposed phasing out funding to the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority (OETA).
In 2012, OETA received $3.8 million in state appropriations, which totals about $1.01 per Oklahoman, Ashley Barcum, OETA Director of Communications, said.
State Representative Tom Newell (R-Seminole) authored House Bill 2218, which proposes reducing funding to OETA by 10 percent for the next two years. Afterward funding would be phased out by 20 percent each year until 2020, when OETA would no longer receive any state funding.
“This is not to shut down OETA,” Newell said. “I’m not trying to kill Big Bird.”
He added that this is not the first piece of legislation to propose ending funding to OETA.
“Some have been more drastic than mine,” Newell said.
He went on to explain that he doesn’t believe OETA funding is a core function of state government.
“For me, it’s simply a matter of priorities,” Newell said. “Our problem is, as a legislature, we don’t prioritize our money well enough.”
He added that the money could go toward improving corrections facilities, public education, or any number of other needs, which Newell believes are core functions of government.
“With our finite resources, we can’t make everyone happy,” Newell said.
Newell is working with OETA to find ways to help them become more self-sufficient, and he plans to amend the bill as needed.
“I am working with OETA to come up with a good solution,” he said. “It [the bill] is definitely a work in progress.”
OETA Executive Director Dan Schiedel said OETA is working on solutions to become less reliant on tax dollars.
“We want to make sure OETA is still around for generations yet to come,” Schiedel said.
Another hurdle the organization is facing is the 2014 “sunset” which is current law. The “sunset,” if not “taken off the table completely” or kicked down the road, could cause OETA to shut down completely, Schiedel said.
Newell’s bill pushes the “sunset” to 2019, however in current statutes, it is 2014. If that remains unaddressed, OETA will cease to exist, Schiedel said.
Page 2 of 2 - “We’re just waiting to see what comes out of that,” he said.