TULSA, Okla. None - Two bills authored by state lawmakers seek to end state funding for the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority (OETA), a move some call a cost-saving measure, but which others believe is a political attack on a perceived liberal bias in public broadcasting.
John McCarroll is Executive Director of OETA.
He says Senate Bill 1689, authored by Sen. Anthony Sykes, R-Moore, would immediately end all state funding for OETA, effective in November.
A similar proposal, House Bill 3039, would phase the funding out by reducing it 20 percent per year over the next five years.
HB 3039 was authored by Rep. Leslie Osborn, R-Tuttle.
The authors of both bills have said that their measures represent shifting budget priorities.
However, some people opposed to the measures see them as politically motivated.
Rep. Eric Proctor, D-Tulsa, told KRMG Monday that he will fight against gutting the state's educational television budget.
"That idea has had some support among the Republican caucus at the state capitol. It usually gets around 30 to 35 votes to kill OETA."
But, he added, "As an old history teacher and high school government teacher, my experience has been when people know more about what's going on, the better our entire state is."
"To keep the state's unifying news source," he added, "is a positive thing, not a negative thing. It should stay open."
McCarroll noted that OETA's budget, which was $5.1 million three years ago, has already been cut deeply.
It's currently $3.8 million for the year.
Most of that money pays for the infrastructure of the statewide network, allowing people in all corners of Oklahoma to see educational television and the news produced by OETA.
The news product itself has been sharply curtailed.
For 30 years, OETA produced a half hour news program each weeknight.
It now produces a single, one hour show which airs on Friday.
McCarroll calls it a "summary" of the week's news, "rather than what's happening today."
KRMG phoned the offices of Sen. Sykes and Rep. Osborn for comment and clarification on their respective proposals regarding OETA.
Both lawmakers elected not to return our calls.