Are public television stations subject to state open records laws?

Background: Private agency, public dollars.

My friend and colleague Paul Jacob was indicted in Oklahoma in June 2007 by attorney general Drew Edmondson. The charges were dropped last week because the underlying law was unconstitutional, according to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. Two other federal appellate courts had ruled that similar laws in other states were unconstitutional last year. One might say that the laws were manifestly unconstitutional but nevertheless Edmondson persisted for eighteen months in his attempt to jail the Oklahoma 3 for up to ten years.

When the Citizens in Charge Foundation (CICF) sent out a press release to the Oklahoma media last week, announcing that the charges had been dropped, the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority — the public television station in Oklahoma — sent a “spam complaint” to Hostica, the company that hosts the CICF website, causing the website to temporarily be pulled.

I would think that getting press releases about Oklahoma-related news would be all in a day’s work for the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority, and would not be something to cause someone at OETA to go to the trouble of filing a spam complaint with CICF’s server. I’d be curious to know who made that decision, and why, and how it was executed.

I can’t discern from OETA’s website whether it would be considered mostly a private corporation or, like other nominally private corporations that are primarily funded by tax dollars, whether it would be considered public in the sense of FOIAable.

Anyone out there have any experience with the question of whether state-based public television stations are considered public for FOIA purposes?


4 responses to “Are public television stations subject to state open records laws?

  1. Seems to me the question should be why wouldn’t it be considered public? The onus is on them to prove it’s private.

  2. They should be… they are not supposed to set up as a 501c3 just to circumvent sunshine laws.

    In NH we are going to fix this wagon, you will see.

  3. Of course they are public records, and I have already asked for some of those records in this particular case.

  4. The North Dakota Attorney General issued an opinion a few years ago that records of private entities that get government money are public.

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