Responding to a 9 percent budget cut from the Legislature, OETA plans to drop its nightly “Oklahoma News Report” after Friday night's show and replace it with a weekly one-hour magazine program.
OETA Executive Director John McCarroll said the statewide network was hoping for a 5 percent budget cut. He said the 9 percent cut made it impossible to retain the nightly 6:30 p.m. show, which had aired for more than 30 years, with the same quality of recent years.
“It was a group decision with the news people and everybody else,” McCarroll said. “This is the way we can preserve the integrity of what we do and make sure it's top-notch.”
McCarroll said OETA's appropriation has gradually been cut by 26 percent in the past two years, from $5.19 million in 2009 to $3.82 million in 2011. After last year's cuts, longtime anchors George Tomek and Gerry Bond and weatherman Ross Dixon were dropped.
Despite cutting back to a weekly show, McCarroll said OETA does not plan to lay off news personnel. He said two Oklahoma City reporters who left the network late last year were not replaced.
Although OETA does not subscribe to Nielsen ratings, McCarroll estimated the show had 30,000 to 60,000 viewers a night. Viewers in remote areas, which do not receive Oklahoma City and Tulsa commercial television programming, would be hurt most by the lack of a nightly news show. OETA's 14 translators, primarily on the edges of the state, serve those viewers.
McCarroll said he expected the new hourlong “Oklahoma News Report,” which will debut at 7 p.m. Friday, July 15, and be hosted by Dick Pryor, would be a magazine-type show.
“I'm not saying its ‘60 Minutes' or ‘CBS Sunday Morning,' but I think those would be the kind of programs we want it to be, sort of a must-see for everybody,” he said. “I think it will be a tighter show and have more in-depth reporting than we've ever been able to do.”
Beginning next week, OETA's news programming will include “BBC World News America” at 5 p.m., “Nightly Business Report” at 5:30 p.m. and the “PBS NewsHour” at 6 p.m.