CPB Inspector General challenges classification of UNC-TV funds

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A CPB Inspector General’s audit has determined that the corporation overpaid around $38,000 in Community Service Grants to UNC-TV. The station is disputing the finding.

In the audit, sent to CPB July 31, IG Mary Mitchelson said that the Research Triangle Park station miscategorized $310,201 from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act as nonfederal financial support. The station received the funds as payment from the state Department of Public Instruction for PBS LearningMedia content.

The IG said the payment should not qualify as NFFS because CPB classifies ARRA money distributed by state agencies as federal funding. But in a response to the IG, UNC-TV GM Brian Sickora said the funds should count as NFFS because the station was paid as a vendor. The Department of Public Instruction’s director of finance agreed with that assessment, Sickora said, as did the director of contracts and grants for the University of North Carolina, UNC-TV’s licensee.

The IG also raised questions about $10,000 from the National Black Programming Consortium reported as NFFS. UNC-TV received the funds as a community engagement grant related to the NBPC-produced documentary 180 Days: Hartsville, according to Sickora.

CPB does not classify funds given to stations by other public broadcasting entities as NFFS. The IG said NBPC’s website identifies the organization as part of public broadcasting’s National Minority Consortia. But Sickora responded that NBPC’s status as “exclusively” a public broadcasting entity is “somewhat ambiguous.” The contract for the grant did not specify that NBPC is a public broadcasting entity, Sickora said.

CPB awards CSGs based on a formula that uses station NFFS as part of the calculation. The IG recommended that CPB recover $38,276 in excess CSG payments.

The audit examined grants awarded to UNC-TV from July 2014 through June 2016. CPB management has 90 days to decide whether to act on the IG’s recommendation.