60th Anniversary | OETA

1950s     1960s     1970s     1980s     1990s     2000s     2010s


OETA began with one transmitting station, little money, limited broadcast hours and a small, almost immeasurable audience. Today, with OETA's statewide digital network of four transmitting stations and 14 translator booster stations, more than 1,800,000 viewers tune into OETA on a weekly basis.


1951- The Oklahoma State Legislature unanimously approves a resolution urging the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to reserve television channels for educational purposes -- the first and only legislative body in the United States to petition the FCC for this purpose. 

1953 - House Bill 1033, creating the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority, is passed and signed into law. Edward K. Gaylord, founder of the Oklahoma Publishing Company, donated $150,000 to fund the Authority for the first three years operations provided that the state support its operations in future years.

1956 - Channel 13-Oklahoma City is activated, the 20th educational television station in the United States -- and the second in the Southwest.

1959 - Channel 11-Tulsa is activated. OETA's two VHF transmitting stations provide educational television to approximately 60 percent of Oklahoma's population.


1962 - OETA moves its educational TV operations from the University of Oklahoma's student union building to the Forum, a unit of OU's Kellogg Center for Continuing Education.

1966 - A federal grant is awarded to OETA for coverage expansion and to provide its first color capability.

1967 - Report of the Carnegie Commission challenges educational television to go beyond instructional realms to serve the public with quality entertainment, public affairs and cultural programs. The Public Broadcasting Act of 1967, in great part a response to the Carnegie Commission's recommendations, created the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB).

1969 - The Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) is chartered by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) and the public television licensees to serve as the national program distribution agency for public television. Sesame Street premieres.


1972 - OETA director John Dunn, who has guided the Authority since its inception in 1953, retires July 1. Under the leadership of new Executive Director Bob Allen, former director of communications for the State Department of Education, the Authority adopts goals to develop a financially diverse state network of public television stations.

1974 - A new consolidated OETA studio facility is completed in Oklahoma City.

1975 - The first Festival fundraising telethon membership campaign is broadcast. Families and individuals in the Tulsa and Oklahoma City viewing areas contribute over $125,000 to help OETA purchase programs.

1976 - With the addition of a mobile television unit, OETA can, for the first time, produce programs from the state capitol and other locations throughout Oklahoma.

1977 - The state legislature appropriates funds for the purchase of a comprehensive curriculum of instructional programs to be telecast on OETA to classrooms across the state.

1978 - The PBS network begins broadcasting national programs, thereby becoming the first American television network to transmit programs regularly by satellite. OETA is among the first PBS members to erect a satellite-receiving dish.


1980 - OETA's news and public affairs program "The Oklahoma Report" unveils a new format, providing comprehensive statewide news coverage each weeknight.

1982 - OETA finalizes construction of six 1,000-watt translator stations in northern and southern Oklahoma. Activation of these new stations marks the final step in extending the OETA signal into every area of the state.

1983 - The Oklahoma Educational Television Authority Foundation, Inc. is established.

1984 - In an average July week, according to PBS, OETA reaches 1,228,710 viewers for a cumulative audience of 40 percent of the TV households in the state — the largest cumulative audience of any statewide public television network in the nation.

1987 - OETA — in cooperation with the Lawrence Welk Syndication – offers a 52-week series of programs to public television stations. Within 60 days, "The Lawrence Welk Show" becomes one of the largest independent public television acquisitions. In September, OETA Foundation's launches a $1 million fund-raising campaign in support of "Oklahoma Passage.” The five-part Oklahoma history docu-drama is the most industrious project undertaken by OETA.

1988 - The OETA Foundation is offered a $1 million grant from Pappas Telecasting Companies to acquire a second educational television channel in Oklahoma City.


1991 - Channel 43, The Literacy Channel, begins operating as OETA’s second channel in the Oklahoma City metro area. OETA becomes the first statewide system to operate a second instructional broadcast service, with Sesame Street, Barney and Reading Rainbow airing in prime time hours in the Channel 43 schedule.

1997 - A proposal is made to the Appropriations Sub-Committee on Education to fund a state-of-the-art digital satellite delivery system of OETA’s programming to transmitters throughout the state to replace the current analog system. A Joint Resolution is passed by OETA and the OETA Foundation that the assets of Channel 43 be sold and the proceeds used as matching funds for the required digital transmission and production equipment costs and to establish an Endowment for future capital and related needs.

1998 - Channel 43, The Literacy Channel, is sold to Paramount Stations Group.

1999 - Bob Allen retires as executive director after 27 years to serve as president of the OETA Foundation. Malcolm Wall, OETA's deputy director, is named the new executive director.


2000 - OETA's Audience levels grow to new heights, reaching 1,800,000 viewers each week. OETA is consistently in the top 10 highest rated public television stations nationwide.

2001 - Demonstrations of the new digital television future are presented to civic groups all across the state. A total of $5.6 million in state appropriations is received in connection with the conversion to digital television. This appropriation is matched by the OETA Foundation, making the total commitment $11.2 million.

2002 - OETA broadcasts live The Dedication of the State Capitol Dome. The special broadcast wins an Emmy Award. Beginning in mid-October, OETA’s entire local News and Public Affairs programming is captioned live for the hearing impaired.

2003 - Four new digital transmitters are signed on in Cheyenne, Eufaula, Tulsa and Oklahoma City. OETA celebrates its 50th Anniversary with a gala broadcast from the Western Heritage Museum. At the event, the first OETA HD production is demonstrated. Executive Director Malcolm Wall leaves OETA to take a similar position with the Kentucky Educational Television network. The board hires John McCarroll who has managed several PBS stations, including KLRU in Austin, Texas as the new executive director.

2004 - Viewers with digital receivers can now watch OETA’s digital and analog transmitters in Eufaula, Cheyenne, Oklahoma City and Tulsa. OETA, in cooperation with OneNet and both houses of the Oklahoma legislature, begins audio streaming of all floor sessions of the 50th Legislative Session. Gallery wins an Emmy Award for a special half-hour production. A new weekly public affairs series is created. OKLAHOMA FORUM features state lawmakers and media guests in lively roundtable discussions.

2005 - More than 8,000 square feet of space is added to the Oklahoma City headquarters building, allowing the Stateline and Gallery staffs to be housed at OETA rather than in rented space off-site. Nielsen ratings show that Tulsa and Oklahoma City consistently rank in the top seven public stations in the nation in viewership. Prime-time viewing of OETA places the network in the top four stations, depending on the measurement period. OETA begins on-air promotion of Oklahoma as "The State of Creativity" by saluting individuals who have tapped into their own creativity to express themselves, solve problems and improve the quality of life in Oklahoma. A total of 42 "creative moments" were produced and aired daily on OETA.

2006 - Oklahoma's very first High Definition local television program to be produced and aired is "OETA and the Digital Revolution "With the advent of digital broadcasting, OETA expands its programming offering to include three new channels dedicated to specific Oklahoma, children's and adult learning programs. Cable subscribers in the Oklahoma City and Tulsa area are provided with a total of six channels of OETA programming. Live coverage of "Oklahoma's Election 2006" gains for OETA the highest viewership of any public television station in the nation on November 6.

2007 - To celebrate the Oklahoma Centennial, OETA produces six new history documentaries and "one hundred stories for one hundred years." The 100 stories are two-to-three-minute video productions on little-known facts about Oklahoma history are aired. OETA is selected to produce the Centennial Parade and the Centennial Spectacular for television. Viewership of these two events set records for public television nationally. Oklahoma legislators approve $3.2 million in appropriations, matched by the OETA Foundation, to OETA to help complete the digital conversion of the state network. The funding is to help pay for 15 low-power rural OETA translators, studio upgrades and production equipment. State dollars are matched with non-state, private and federal money. OETA wins three regional EMMYS, the Wrangler Award from the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, awards from the Society of Professional Journalists and the Oklahoma Bar Association Liberty Bell.

2008 - OETA wins a record number of four Emmy Awards, including honors for the Centennial Spectacular, and the Oklahoma WWII Stories community service project. Additional honors include OAPB, SPJ and NETA awards. Oklahoma legislators give the green light to a new studio in Tulsa with additional funding. Grants from the NTIA of the U.S. Commerce Department, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting bring in more than $2.5 million for the statewide digital conversion within two years.

2009 - Analog broadcasting ends for full-power television stations in Oklahoma and the U.S. Entire state now receives high definition OETA programming as all 18 transmitters are converted to digital broadcasting. Agreement to construct new OETA studio on the OSU-Tulsa campus is finalized. "My Source" campaign launched with viewers from across Oklahoma sharing their reasons for watching and relying on OETA. Economic downturn prompts state appropriation reduction and monthly rescissions of $994,000 for OETA that require adjustments but no loss of services for viewers. New OETA interactive website launched with traffic increasing as much as 200 percent.


2010 - OETA’s statewide Oklahoma Votes election coverage garners the highest amount of viewers of any public television network in the country.

2011 - Historic inauguration ceremonies from the State Capitol are broadcast live across Oklahoma and also available worldwide via live streaming on the OETA website.

2012-2013 - John McCarroll retires and OETA hires Mr. Dan Schiedel as the new Executive Director. OETA conducts statewide project, THE DUST BOWL, developed to engage Oklahomans to honor survivors, share state history and learn about conservation methods. At a time when many PBS stations see a decline in viewers, OETA continues to surge in viewership, building a strong lead as the top-rated public television network in America.

2014 - OETA’s annual engagement event OETA Day draws more than 1,200 citizens to the State Capitol 4th floor rotunda. OETA receives a grant from the Oklahoma State Department of Education for Ready to Learn, statewide program designed to build literacy skills for children grades PreK-3rd grade.  OETA launches the Story of Cancer, an outreach project in partnership with Ken Burns and Cancer Treatment Centers America.