Educational TV Network, Foundation Settle Funding Dispute

Apr 11, 2019

Credit OETA

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A nonprofit foundation established to support the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority network has agreed to dissolve and hand over millions in assets to a replacement organization.

OETA and OETA Foundation, Inc. announced the agreement in a joint statement Wednesday.

"OETA is glad that the situation has been resolved and it can continue its obligation to provide quality public television to the citizens of the nation and the state of Oklahoma," said Michael Burrage, OETA's attorney.

The foundation must hand over more than $1.6 million to OETA by noon Friday. The foundation will transfer more than $40 million in funds and assets to the new nonprofit by May 15. The two parties have arranged for OETA to attend to all matters regarding donors and donations after that date to provide continuity of services.

Under the agreement, the foundation will also turn over its donor list — something it earlier refused to do.

The settlement ends a bitter legal dispute over the distribution of OETA's assets. The foundation filed a lawsuit in December against OETA, seeking sole authority to decide such allocations. Attorney General Mike Hunter subsequently asked an Oklahoma County District Court for a restraining order to prevent the foundation from distributing or transferring any of OETA's assets.

The network ended the relationship with the foundation in January.

OETA Foundation, created in 1982, said it has raised more than $67.5 million for OETA since 1989.

"The settlement reflects the best interests of our donors, viewers and friends who place a high value on OETA's programs and services," said Garrett King, chairman of the OETA board of directors.

The new support foundation, Friends of OETA, was created last year with King listed as its president. OETA will seat the complete governing board during a meeting on April 23.

OETA refers to itself as America's most-watched Public Broadcasting Service network. It is financed by state subsidies and private contributions. It airs local programming and PBS shows such as "Sesame Street" and "Antiques Roadshow," and was the home of "Downton Abbey."