The Oklahoma Educational Television Authority (OETA) Board of Directors voted unanimously today to terminate its relationship with OETA Foundation. In taking this action the Board is protecting donor funds and the investment of Oklahoma’s taxpayers as well as the integrity of OETA. OETA intends to fully comply with the intent of the state law 1982 Okla. Sess. Laws 607, SB 454 to “encourage contributions by private individuals, companies, foundations, corporations and others in the private and public sectors” and will immediately take steps to form a “public, nonprofit foundation which will operate for the exclusive purpose of receiving, investing and expending privately donated nonstate appropriated funds related to the support, promotion, development and growth of educational and public broadcasting in Oklahoma.”
In 1982 OETA collaborated with a diverse group of philanthropic Oklahomans to create the OETA Foundation, Inc. The OETA Foundation and OETA worked together for just over three decades with a shared goal to bring Oklahomans quality, accessible, non-commercial programming intended to entertain and enlighten.
OETA holds the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) license for public television in Oklahoma and as the licensee, OETA is closely regulated by the FCC with sole responsibility for programming, management, and content.
The once-cooperative and courteous relationship between OETA and the OETA Foundation, Inc. has deteriorated dramatically. Recognizing this serious situation, the OETA Board of Directors led intensive efforts over a multi-year period to negotiate a modernized and reformed operating agreement with the OETA Foundation, but unfortunately were rebuffed by the OETA Foundation. As a result, multiple long-time OETA Foundation Trustees resigned in 2018 in protest of this continued irresponsible and harmful behavior towards OETA and the State of Oklahoma.
In December of 2018, OETA Foundation filed suit against OETA to assert control of the operations of OETA and to prevent donor funding from reaching OETA. In response, OETA filed a petition asking the judge to affirm OETA’s authority to select a more prudent and responsible steward of OETA’s donor dollars and charitable gifts.
“After trying in good faith for over two years to reach an amicable resolution we now find ourselves in the unfortunate position of being forced to terminate our relationship with the OETA Foundation, Inc.,” commented Garrett King of Weatherford, Chair of the OETA Board of Directors. “The OETA Foundation has precipitated this unfortunate situation, but the OETA Board of Directors will uphold its responsibilities to the public and to OETA’s generous donors. We will protect and preserve OETA and its ability to execute the mission given it by the Oklahoma Legislature.”
The OETA Board of Directors voted today in favor of a resolution which provides the Chair of the Board the authority to proceed with terminating the agreement with the OETA Foundation. As a result, OETA intends to notify the OETA Foundation in writing directly of its decision.
“We took this action today pursuant to all applicable law and policy, but we took no joy in being forced to do so by the OETA Foundation’s reckless and damaging behavior,” King said. “It is what we must do. We have also taken the first crucial steps towards rebuilding OETA’s capacity to fully cooperate with a new supporting charity as was envisioned by the Legislature in 1982 and as was the reality for so many positive, productive years. Private support has been and will be crucial to OETA’s continued success and role as a positive force in the lives of Oklahomans.”
King expressed his appreciation to the full OETA Board of Directors for its engaged, resolute support of OETA’s employees and mission. He also commended public media veteran Polly Anderson, the Executive Director of OETA named by the Board in late 2017, for her steadfastness in steering the organization through challenging times.