State legislator wants to phase out all funding to Oklahoma Network

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Funding for OETA — The Oklahoma Network is in a state lawmaker’s bulls-eye for elimination. Rep. Leslie Osborn (R-Tuttle) said she will introduce a bill next year to reduce state aid to the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority 20 percent annually over the next five years. She discussed the plan Tuesday (Nov. 1) before the state House Appropriations and Budget Subcommittee on Education, reports the Oklahoman newspaper. “As long as the public dollars are being put in there, there is no reason for the privates to step up,” Osborn said. “It’s not a matter that this is not a worthy agency, that this is not a worthy program. But it’s just that we don’t have the dollars anymore for anything that is not a core essential need. It’s just a fiscal reality.”

State support of OETA has fallen from nearly $5.2 million in fiscal 2009 to $3.8 million this fiscal year. Most state agencies received significant cuts during the past three years because the state faced dire revenue shortfalls, the newspaper noted. OETA cuts have prompted layoffs and the reduction of a weeknight newscast to one night a week, said John McCarroll, OETA’s executive director. Several locally produced programs also were eliminated.

In the last fiscal year, state funding made up 39 percent of OETA’s $10.2 million budget, according to the station’s annual report. Viewer contributions accounted for 22 percent, or $2.2 million.

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