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Oklahoma House turns back OETA funding threat

The Oklahoma House of Representatives defeated a bill that would have gradually reduced the amount of state funds to Oklahoma's public television system.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT Published: March 15, 2013

Rep. Tom Newell, R-Seminole, the author of HB 2218, said his intent was not to do away with OETA, but to have private donations, which make up about 60 percent of the system's budget, gradually replace state appropriations.

Opponents of HB 2218 defended OETA for its excellent children's programming and documentaries.

For many Oklahomans who don't have cable or a satellite dish, OETA is the only Oklahoma TV station they can watch, said Rep. Doug Cox, R-Grove. About 20 percent of Oklahomans, or about 700,000, can't afford cable television, he said.

Rep. Wade Rousselot, D-Okay, told lawmakers how his grandmother in rural Oklahoma watched “The Lawrence Welk Show” every Saturday when he was a youngster. Rousselot, who has a satellite dish, said he is disgusted with the lack of quality family program on commercial television stations and networks; his family often watches OETA's programs, including the Lawrence Welk reruns.

Rep. Mike Reynolds, R-Oklahoma City, voted against the bill because he said he wanted state appropriations for OETA to end immediately.

“Why not phase it out right now?” he asked. “Why don't we just get rid of them now?”