Former RSU-TV director speaks of importance of public television
Salesha Wilken Claremore Progress
He may have been spending the past few months in Oklahoma City, but former Claremore resident Dan Schiedel was back in Zebra Country this week as special guest and speaker of the day at the Rotary Club of Claremore.
“It’s so good to be ‘in the house’ — to be back in Claremore and to see so many familiar and friendly faces,” said Schiedel, formerly of RSU-TV. “OETA has so many different programs offering so many different things to so many different people.
“As, I believe most of you know, OETA has been around for roughly six decades, and we’re getting ready to celebrate our 60th anniversary,” he said. “The network is in Festival, if you haven’t noticed, which is the time when we ask our members to do their part and contribute to keep public television going. It’s the time of the year when we reach out to the viewers to ask them to give back (to OETA) not so much for us, but for them as well.”
Schiedel turned his address to whom public television serves and offered some background about OETA.
“The network, who we are and who we serve, some people look at us like a great daycare provider because of all the quality children’s programming we offer. Our children’s programming is second-to-none in its educational value,” he said. “These run from about six in the morning to mid-afternoon. Through us, the kids have a great place to which they can turn for non-commercial children’s programming of the highest educational content.”
Schiedel described OETA as “Oklahoma’s largest classroom,” with more than 100 Oklahoma schools currently participating in the “Colonial Williamsburg” electronic television fieldtrips, involving thousands of students in the state.
“We’re a safe haven for Oklahoma families, providing non-commercial, non-violent and educational entertainment and information,” he said. “In recent years, OETA has enhanced its user-friendly, interactive website with full video for every (OETA) production, allowing 24-hour on-demand access for Oklahoma students, teachers and other citizens.
“Through special programming dedicated to adult literacy, OETA helps foster a stronger, better educated and better informed Oklahoma workforce,” he said. “Furthermore, we produce and air more original Oklahoma-centric programs than any television network or station every single week, among these, ‘The People’s Business’, ‘Oklahoma Forum’, ‘Outdoor Oklahoma’, ‘Stateline’, ‘Movie Club’, ‘Writing Out Loud’ and more.”
But how did OETA come about in the first place?
“In 1951, the Oklahoma Legislature petitioned the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) to reserve television channels for non-commercial educational purposes — the only legislative body in the United States ever to do so,” he said. “In 1953, the Oklahoma Legislature then established the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority, OETA, as a state agency to make non-commercial television services available on a coordinated statewide basis.
“As a non-commercial television state agency with channels assigned to it by the FCC, it’s illegal for us to sell and air commercial advertising,” he said. “Our financial support must come from government and private resources.
“OETA is Oklahoma’s only over-the-air statewide communication system,” he said. “Through our emergency communications system, we make Oklahoma communities safer by providing statewide Amber Alerts and serving as the backbone for state an national emergency communications,” he said. “As ‘Oklahoma’s storyteller’, OETA shares and preserves Oklahoma history, culture and heritage. Over the past 60 years, the Oklahoma Network has built and archived a digital living history with more than 3,000 Oklahoma stories.”
Schiedel concluded his address by reminding Rotarians that all the services offered by OETA are possible because of funding primarily from state appropriations, in-kind contributions, foundation grants, and viewer contributions.
“More than 20 percent of our funding comes solely from viewer contributions — viewers like you — viewers like you who allow us to continue to be the only television operation, commercial or non-commercial, to serve the entire state and the only broadcast television signal for many rural Oklahomans,” he said.