Law & Principles , Culture & the Family

Ray Carter | May 10, 2023

Stitt’s OETA veto draws support

Ray Carter

Gov. Kevin Stitt’s decision to veto legislation reauthorizing the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority (OETA), the state’s Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) entity, has drawn national attention and prompted much pearl-clutching from his critics.

But the move is drawing support from some Oklahoma lawmakers and a good-government organization.

“I’ve wanted to eliminate OETA for years, so I was thrilled that the governor vetoed it,” said state Sen. Nathan Dahm, a Tulsa lawmaker recently elected chairman of the Oklahoma Republican Party.

In his veto message for House Bill 2820, which would have recreated OETA, Stitt wrote, “Although the OETA may have played a principal role in the provision of educational television services at one time, today the OETA’s long-term, strategic value is at best unclear, if not outright imagined.”

In subsequent public comments, Stitt has also noted that PBS programming now often wades into political advocacy, including in its children’s programming.

“When you further look at the programming, I don’t think Oklahomans want to use their tax dollars to indoctrinate kids,” Stitt said. “And some of the stuff that they’re showing, it just overly sexualizes our kids. There’s parents defend child transition on PBS that’s being played. There’s elevating LGBTQIA2S+ voices.”

PBS Newshour recently featured a segment attacking states like Oklahoma that have passed laws to prevent children from being given hormone blockers, cross-sex hormones, or sex-change surgeries before age 18 if the child expresses gender confusion. That segment included a pair of parents who claimed their son—who they said 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.

Stitt’s office has also pointed to a segment on “Let’s Learn” that was provided to PBS stations nationwide. That segment involved a reading of “The Hips on the Drag Queen Go Swish, Swish, Swish” by Lil Miss Hot Mess, a drag queen.

At the end of the segment, the performer declared, “I think we might have some drag-queens-in-training on our hands.”

State Rep. Jim Olsen, R-Roland, said he agrees with Stitt “on both counts.”

“Trying to hold to the principle of limited government, I really can’t see any real justification for government funding a television station,” Olsen said.

He said the content on OETA and other PBS stations may not be more offensive to many Oklahomans than the programming on other stations, but there is a crucial difference since the others are not taxpayer-funded.

“It’s probably not any worse than any of the other television networks,” Olsen said. “However, do taxpayers want to pay for that kind of content? And I can say most of my constituents, probably the great majority, wouldn’t want to pay for that kind of content.”

A national good-government group has also called for ending taxpayer subsidies to PBS stations.

Citizens Defending Freedom recently called for the federal government to strip PBS of its taxpayer funding after the group found PBS stations were now providing a “toolkit” to “integrate LGBTQ+ history and narratives into US History and English classrooms.”

Officials with Citizens Defending Freedom also said that PBS has promoted a “professional development guide” for school teachers that includes one video equating pro-life citizens to racists, and another video that promotes allowing males to compete in girls’ sports if the male says he identifies as a female.

Oklahoma is among the states that have banned males from competing in girls’ athletics.

The “toolkit” is featured on OETA’s website.

“PBS is clearly engaged in promoting inappropriate LGBTQ+ and Critical Race Theory propaganda to our children,” said Citizens Defending Freedom’s chief communications officer Kristen Huber. “Their ‘LGBTQ+ Identity Kit is clearly a partisan effort to brainwash teachers and students, sowing seeds of division and hatred in an environment that should seek to protect our children, not use them as political pawns.”

Current, a nonprofit news organization covering public media, reports that public broadcasting does not receive direct state funding in at least 14 states.

OETA’s defenders have argued state subsidies should continue, in part because the state has piggybacked emergency broadcasts onto the OETA system through use of the station’s towers.

But Dahm said that argument is not persuasive.

“The only somewhat realistic argument that people can make for the necessity of OETA is that they do emergency broadcasting with their towers, but for the amount that we pay them for everything else, it’s way more than what it would cost just to rent towers to do that,” Dahm said. “I don’t think we get our money’s worth out of that. I don’t think that the programming is something that the taxpayers should be subsidizing.”

Ray Carter Director, Center for Independent Journalism

Ray Carter

Director, Center for Independent Journalism

Ray Carter is the director of OCPA’s Center for Independent Journalism. He has two decades of experience in journalism and communications. He previously served as senior Capitol reporter for The Journal Record, media director for the Oklahoma House of Representatives, and chief editorial writer at The Oklahoman. As a reporter for The Journal Record, Carter received 12 Carl Rogan Awards in four years—including awards for investigative reporting, general news reporting, feature writing, spot news reporting, business reporting, and sports reporting. While at The Oklahoman, he was the recipient of several awards, including first place in the editorial writing category of the Associated Press/Oklahoma News Executives Carl Rogan Memorial News Excellence Competition for an editorial on the history of racism in the Oklahoma legislature.

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