Law & Principles

Jonathan Small | May 12, 2023

OETA doesn’t need state subsidies

Jonathan Small

Gov. Kevin Stitt’s decision to veto reauthorization of the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority (OETA), the state’s Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) entity, has critics acting as though the sky is falling and that Big Bird is on his last legs.

Neither view is true. Big Bird will still be around even without Oklahoma government funding, as proven by the fact that 14 other states do not provide direct state funding to PBS stations. There are no reports of children aimless wandering the streets of those states without access to any educational programming.

According to Current, a nonprofit news organization, public broadcasting receives direct state funding in 36 states. It’s notable that the 14 non-funding states include several controlled by Democrats, such as Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.

Furthermore, Oklahoma’s spending on public broadcasting is excessive compared to many states.

While the Oklahoma government spends 72 cents per capita on public broadcasting, Illinois spends just one cent per capita. Other states also spend far less, including Delaware (18 cents per capita), Florida (50 cents), Indiana (55 cents), Kansas (17 cents), Missouri (17 cents), Nevada (22 cents), Ohio (34 cents), Oregon (9 cents), and Tennessee (10 cents).

The simple fact is the world has changed since PBS was created in the 1960s. Educational programming for children—the main selling point used for PBS—abounds today across multiple platforms. Oklahoma government has no need to subsidize a TV competitor to private-sector stations, and ratings suggest most families are already using alternatives to PBS.

Furthermore, PBS programming has veered into politics and social activism.

PBS Newshour recently featured a segment attacking states like Oklahoma that have advanced legislation to prevent children from being given hormone blockers, cross-sex hormones, or sex-change surgeries before age 18.

That segment included a pair of parents who claimed their son—who they say now identifies as a transgender female—“started letting us know she was transgender really before she could even speak.” The segment reportedly did not include any opposing viewpoint from those who supported the legislation.

At the same time, PBS children’s programming has waded into social issues, including on shows like “Clifford the Big Red Dog.” It’s one thing to tax Oklahomans to support programming that teaches children to read, but something else to tax Oklahomans to fund programming that tells their children what stance to take on same-sex marriage or transgenderism.

Also, as a conservative who has been interviewed by OETA news programming, I can tell you the problem of political bias is as prevalent there as on stations like MSNBC.

PBS can survive, but it needs to do so without Oklahoma government subsidies. Don’t worry about Big Bird. As seen in 14 other states, he’ll be just fine.

Jonathan Small President

Jonathan Small


Jonathan Small, C.P.A., serves as President and joined the staff in December of 2010. Previously, Jonathan served as a budget analyst for the Oklahoma Office of State Finance, as a fiscal policy analyst and research analyst for the Oklahoma House of Representatives, and as director of government affairs for the Oklahoma Insurance Department. Small’s work includes co-authoring “Economics 101” with Dr. Arthur Laffer and Dr. Wayne Winegarden, and his policy expertise has been referenced by The Oklahoman, the Tulsa World, National Review, the L.A. Times, The Hill, the Wall Street Journal and the Huffington Post. His weekly column “Free Market Friday” is published by the Journal Record and syndicated in 27 markets. A recipient of the American Legislative Exchange Council’s prestigious Private Sector Member of the Year award, Small is nationally recognized for his work to promote free markets, limited government and innovative public policy reforms. Jonathan holds a B.A. in Accounting from the University of Central Oklahoma and is a Certified Public Accountant.

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