CPB board boosts CSG funds by delaying Healthy Network Initiative for second year

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CPB’s board of directors voted unanimously Monday to postpone distributing funds from the corporation’s Healthy Network Initiative, which was created to streamline station operations and reduce infrastructure costs.

The $1 million initiative was delayed last year during the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. This year’s vote delays the initiative an additional year and will instead add the funds to the pool of money distributed as Community Service Grants to public TV stations.

During the board meeting, EVP and COO Michael Levy said station leaders are currently focused on the financial uncertainty created by the pandemic and are creating hybrid work environments. 

“It is unlikely that public television stations will be able to make the needed investments of time, energy and resources that were contemplated when the Healthy Network Initiative was conceived,” he said.

The Healthy Network Initiative was created in 2019 to help stations better understand how audiences are accessing their programs and services. This led to investments in a single sign-on platform and a new content management system.

Board member Ruby Calvert said GMs have told her that setting aside the initiative for another year is “the right thing to do.”

In addition, the board addressed a policy that has allowed a merged TV station to receive two base CSGs for a minimum of four years.

Levy said station leaders have disagreed about the policy. Some have urged CPB to provide funding for more than four years, while others were skeptical that a merged station should receive the two base grants for that long.

GMs who are seeking two base grants say they could incentivize stations to merge. But Levy said he’s also heard the argument that taking money out of the CSG pool to help merged stations could “unjustly enrich” them and may not be equitable across the system.

After a study of six TV station mergers, CPB concluded that four years was sufficient time for receiving two base grants. The study found that four years gives a merged station time “to realize the efficiencies it was seeking to accomplish as well as cost savings and to begin to increase revenue generation,” according to Levy. “There was no evidence that that second base grant support beyond a four-year period would be critical to the merged entity’s success.”

The board unanimously agreed to revise the policy to limit receipt of two grants to four years. CPB can still decide to extend the grants beyond four years in select circumstances.

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