| March 30, 2012

State will save millions by letting OETA operate independently

Following is an excerpt from OCPA’s Proposed State Budget for the Fiscal Year ending June 30, 2013.

With Oklahoma government spending at an all-time high (see chart), the time has come to set priorities and to exercise spending discipline. Fortunately, one Oklahoma Senate committee is doing just that.

This week the Senate General Government Committee chose not to continue the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority (OETA) as a state entity. This wise move will save the state more than $3.8 million every year.

This new direction for public television in Oklahoma is not surprising or unique. “Public broadcasting is a wonderful resource, providing quality programming that is cherished by many,” Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell has correctly noted. Nevertheless, he recommended eliminating state funding for public broadcasting. “In our modern media world,” he said, “there are thousands upon thousands of content providers operating in the free market. They compete with each other, and viewers and listeners have their choice as to what to tune into or turn on. Simply put, it doesn’t make sense to have some stations with the competitive advantage of being funded by taxpayer dollars. The decision to eliminate state funding of public broadcasting is driven by the fundamental need to reestablish the proper role of government, and budget accordingly.”

Similarly, in Florida last year Gov. Rick Scott vetoed the state’s $4.8 million appropriation for public broadcasting. Broadcasting is not a core function of government. Indeed, according to OETA itself, 17 states (as of FY 2012) are not providing state funding for public broadcasting.

And it’s not as if viewers won’t have access to the many content providers operating in this country. According to federal data, 79.1 percent of all U.S. households have cable or satellite television, with a similar percentage having at least one VCR or DVD player. In poor U.S. households, 63.7 percent have cable or satellite television, with at least 70.6 percent having at least one VCR and 64.8 percent having one DVD player.

There’s another reason taxpayers shouldn’t subsidize OETA, one I can speak to from personal experience. In December 2011, I was interviewed by OETA to discuss OCPA’s perspective on taxes, tax credits, and phasing out the income tax. Now I realize that sometimes things necessarily end up on the cutting-room floor. That’s understandable. But when OETA ran excerpts from my interview, my responses were clipped in such a way as to distort my responses and leave out responses that did not fit the reporter’s predetermined story formula.

Liberal media bias is nothing new, of course, and it’s certainly nothing new among media outlets who receive government funding. Still, that December 9, 2011 broadcast of OETA’s “Oklahoma News Report” was startling for its many distortions and untruths. Bad enough were the negative references to “trickle-down economics” and the screen shots of children in a classroom while discussing “winners and losers” from cutting taxes. But what was most discouraging was the bashing of Oklahoma’s job creators.

Beginning at around the 09:40 mark of the program, OETA cites the work of the liberal Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) and Citizens for Tax Justice as support for why reforming the tax code was going to be difficult. Specifically highlighting the four Oklahoma companies which ITEP calls “Corporate Tax Dodgers,” an OETA reporter said: “It is likely to unsettle taxpayers to know that major corporations in Oklahoma are paying little to no state income taxes, which may make the idea of cutting state income taxes more appealing to some, in other words letting everybody in on the game, or the reverse could be the case that people get caught up and demand that everyone have some skin in this game.” Based on what I could find in the archives, no rebuttal or opinions differing from the ITEP report were presented by the OETA.

Of course, the ITEP report ignores the myriad of other taxes totaling hundreds of millions of dollars paid annually by these companies and their employees.

“To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves,” Thomas Jefferson once wrote, “is sinful and tyrannical.” Taxpayers should not be forced to subsidize PBS or NPR, and they shouldn’t be forced to subsidize OETA’s assaults on job creators.

The analysts at the John Locke Foundation, a free-market think tank in North Carolina, have developed what they call the “9 R’s of Fiscal Responsibility,” which OCPA has gladly adapted in developing a state budget for Oklahoma. When considering OETA, the three R’s that come to mind are “require more user responsibility,” “redirect spending to higher-priority uses,” and “restore civil society.”

With this wise move by the Senate General Government Committee, all OETA assets, including any bandwidth rights, can be assigned to the nonprofit OETA Foundation, giving OETA a firm footing to continue operations without any taxpayer funding. Oklahomans who wish to support OETA are encouraged to send a donation to the OETA Foundation, P.O. Box 14190, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73113.

Submitted each year by the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, Inc. to the taxpayers of the State of Oklahoma and their elected Officials, the OCPA “Budget Book” is carefully crafted by Fiscal Policy Director Jonathan Small to help lawmakers set priorities and exercise spending discipline while creating a state budget that respects your family budget. Offering unmatched fiscal policy analysis and recommendations, Small draws on his experiences as a former budget analyst for the Oklahoma Office of State Finance, former fiscal policy analyst and research analyst for the Oklahoma House of Representatives, and former director of government affairs for the Oklahoma Insurance Department to provide perspective on the state budget that you cannot find anywhere else.

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