OETA veto, Override Street
(Mike Allen)

Come and play, everything’s a-OK! At least it is — for now — if you’re a fan of OETA, Oklahoma’s network of PBS affiliate stations.

If you’ve been following the (regular) legislative session that (sort of) ended Friday, you traveled a long and winding road to reach a point where both chambers of the Oklahoma Legislature overrode 19 of Gov. Kevin Stitt’s late-April vetoes.

Many of those Stitt vetoes were part of an education budget battle as the governor attempted to push things along. The House and the Senate eventually came to an agreement, but decisions which vetoes to lingered until the final day possible amid ongoing negotiations.

One such late-April action drew national attention: Stitt’s OETA veto. HB 2820 seemed like a simple bill to extend the sunset date three years on the Oklahoma Education Television Authority, otherwise known as the place to watch Austin City Limits, Nature and children’s programs like the classic Sesame Street. Stitt’s veto message said OETA lacks “strategic value.”

But when journalists asked Stitt about the OETA veto, he and his press team responded with concerns about LGBTQ-related episodes of children’s programming. How and when those concerns reached Stitt’s radar remains unclear. NonDoc requested emails from the governor’s office about OETA since the start of session, but nothing provided seemed to indicate any particularly “strategic” decisions were being made either.

On Thursday, both chambers of the Legislature voted in super majority to override the OETA veto and preserve the governing body of the state’s public television network through July 1, 2026.

“It’s unbelievable that conservative Republicans would override that bill,” Stitt said, again saying LGBTQ issues should not be referenced in PBS content. “Using taxpayer dollars to get into these social issues, I’m just adamantly opposed to it.”

Did the governor himself catch a rerun of the Clifford the Big Red Dog episode where a child had two moms? Was he folding laundry when Big Bird hugged two gay dads? Did the name of the late B.J. Wexler make him uncomfortable?

Maybe we’ll never know what really made Stitt go full Oscar the Grouch over public television, but the veto drama this session was worthy of the OETA Movie Club. I hope you popped some popcorn.

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