January 17, 2017

OETA launching Native themed programming in April

OKLAHOMA CITY – For at least the month of April, OETA’s lineup is going Native. 

Featuring segments from the Osage, Cherokee, Ponca and Choctaw Nations, as well as the Kiowa and Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes, “Native Oklahoma” is a 30-minute pilot program set to debut this month on Oklahoma’s largest public television network.

“I’m really excited,” Cheyenne and Arapaho TV Content Producer Darren Brown said. “Don’t think this has ever been done before. If it has, I’m not aware of it and I’ve been in TV for more than 30 years.”

The idea for the pilot stems in part from a change in leadership at the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority. When Dan Schiedel became the executive director of OETA in November 2012, the station’s administrators took a long look at the network’s programming line-up and hit the road on a listening tour, soliciting feedback from OETA viewers across Oklahoma.

“We got lots and lots of feedback,” Schiedel said of the tour. “We heard lots of requests for more Native-focused content, including language, culture and history.”

That feedback eventually led to a summer 2013 meeting among representatives from OETA and several tribes’ communication departments about possibly utilizing footage already being produced for tribal communities on a larger scale and eventually, the pilot was born. The show’s title was eventually selected by an online poll and has no connection to the Native Times’ sister magazine of the same name.

Thanks to the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes’ low-power public television station based near El Reno, Okla., CATV Director of Operations Randy Burleson and Brown took the lead on the program’s production front, including coordinating video submission and editing the finished product. With the participating tribes sending in stories with a wide array of topics and lengths, the pair’s production responsibilities included shooting brief introductory segments to help tie it all together.

“There’s an audience out there for this kind of product,” Brown said. “Oklahomans say all the time that we’ve got a rich history, but it’s true. We’ve got so many different tribes and we barely scratched the surface with this. The people who watch OETA are looking for stuff like that – if you’re watching that versus say, ‘Two and a Half Men,’ you’re definitely in the right frame of mind.”

The show made its world premiere at the Native Media Summit Thursday night at Norman campus of the University of Oklahoma. The pilot episode is scheduled to air four times throughout the month of April, with the show’s future beyond that first episode still uncertain. Although there is interest at OETA in making the program a regular part of the network’s schedule, there is the ever-present question of securing sufficient funding for the production side, as well as the challenge of engaging more of the state’s tribes to participate and contribute content.

“There are so many more tribes in Oklahoma,” Brown said. “If there are another six or seven interested, that’s another 30 minute show right there. I know they don’t all have production departments, but if you can just get a fraction of those tribes involved, it could easily be a quarterly show. The fact that OETA is willing to give it air time and their general manager (Schiedel) is willing to get on board is huge.”

“We are really interested in getting more of our tribes involved with OETA and try to bring about more of what they’re producing to the people of Oklahoma,” Schiedel said. “Look at our schedule – we don’t have that many American Indian stories or voices on our air. They represent such a great, strong people in the state of Oklahoma that we should be hearing more about them.”

– As of press time, the pilot for “Native Oklahoma” is scheduled to air four times in April. Those times are:

April 10 at 7 p.m.

April 15 at 9:30 p.m.

April 24 at 7 p.m.

April 27 at 11:30 p.m.