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CBS’ “The Inspectors” sponsored by USPIS

the-inspectors1An article in Deadline gives some insight into a Saturday morning children‐oriented TV show about – not cartoon animals – but the US Postal Inspection Service.

According to the report, the current two‐year contract pays the producers, Litton Entertainment, $5.4 million for the 9/15/2014 to 9/14/2016 period, with two additional one-year options. The show is part of CBS’ three‐hour block of Saturday morning kids programming and features actors in the roles of fictional postal inspectors. Inspired by real‐life cases, episodes conclude with a crime‐prevention message from Guy Cottrell, the real chief postal inspector.

Currently filming its second season in Charleston (SC), The Inspectors is unique – it’s the only show on commercial television that’s paid for by a governmental agency.

Responding to a Freedom of Information Act request, the USPIS told Deadline that none of the funding for the show comes from taxpayers or the sale of postage stamps. Instead, “the total awarded amount has been paid to the supplier … from the asset forfeiture and consumer fraud awareness funds, designated for specific purposes which include consumer fraud and prevention education. … The United States Postal Inspection Service is the sole agency within the Postal Service that uses this fund and it is not a part of the overall Postal Service operating fund.”

The USPIS helps the show’s writers develop storylines based on the agency’s case files, allows the show to use its many trademarked logos and insignia, and has technical advisers on set “to make sure the law enforcement procedures are as close to real” as possible.

The arrangement is completely legal; the report notes, and there’s “no law or FCC rule that would prevent other federal agencies — such as the IRS, CIA, DEA or EPA — from sponsoring their own shows and spreading their message.” Though the article includes comments from some who question the propriety of
“government‐funded” TV shows, it still shows that at least for the Inspection Service, the proceeds of criminal activity can be put to a better purpose.